Dominic Raab says scientific experts are 'too busy' to appear at daily briefings

15 June 2020, 20:03

Dominic Raab held Monday's daily press briefing
Dominic Raab held Monday's daily press briefing. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Government scientists have stopped appearing at the Downing Street coronavirus briefings so regularly because they are too busy, Dominic Raab has claimed.

The government recently faced claims that the chief nurse, Ruth May, had been dropped from appearing after she refused to back Boris Johnson's chief aide Dominic Cummings, who was embroiled in a national row following allegations he broke lockdown rules.

Downing Street later refuted the allegations, but the Liberal Democrats have since written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock demanding an explanation and accusing the government of "threatening" the confidence of the public.

Mr Johnson himself appeared to stop England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty, and the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, from answering the questions about the scandal.

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Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty (left) and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance are among those that sometimes attend
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty (left) and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance are among those that sometimes attend. Picture: PA

Professor Whitty later stated he did not wish to become involved in the politics of the matter.

And deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam has not been seen since 30 May, when he was asked for his opinion on the matter.

He said: “In my opinion the rules are clear and they have always been clear.

“In my opinion they are for the benefit of all. In my opinion they apply to all.”

But when asked why the weekly appearances at the Government press conferences by scientific and medical experts had reduced by half since the start of June, Mr Raab said they would continue.

Put to him that there were some questions that medical experts would be more equipped to answer than ministers, Mr Raab added: "Well, you haven't tried me on a question I can't answer yet but I am happy to be proved wrong.

And deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam has not been seen since 30 May
And deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam has not been seen since 30 May. Picture: PA

"Look, you are right to say the scientists and the medical adviser are important.

"They will continue to attend these press conferences, perhaps not on a daily basis - they've got a huge amount of other work to do - and undoubtedly the politicians need to answer the judgment calls we make based on the evolving science."

Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Layla Moran accused the government of "silencing the science" in comments made after the conference.

"The government appears to be silencing the science at a time when it is needed more than ever.

"Millions of people watching at home are looking for reassurance on crucial questions about the easing of lockdown, and they want expert, objective advice not political spin."

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