Jacob Rees-Mogg apologises for comparing NHS doctor to anti-vaxxer

6 September 2019, 12:57

Dr David Nicholl csaid Jacob Rees-Mogg&squot;s comments "beggar belief".
Dr David Nicholl csaid Jacob Rees-Mogg's comments "beggar belief". Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Jacob Rees-Mogg has apologised after comparing an NHS consultant who criticised a No Deal Brexit to an anti-vaxxer who incorrectly claimed vaccines were linked to autism.

The Leader of the Commons sparked fury after saying neurologist Dr David Nicholl - who was involved in contingency planning in the event of a No Deal - was like disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield.

The former physician falsely claimed autism could be linked measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and was subsequently struck off the medical register in 2010.

But after a dressing down from Downing Street, Mr Rees-Mogg said: "I apologise to Dr Nicholl for the comparison with Dr Wakefield."

"I have the utmost respect for all of the country's hardworking medical professionals and the work they do in caring for the people of this country."

"The government is working closely with the NHS, industry and distributors to help ensure the supply of medicine and medical products remains uninterrupted once we leave the EU on October 31, whatever the circumstances."

He added: "It's vital clinicians can provide expert advice. I defend to the hilt the right of clinicians and civil servants to provide advice without fear or favour."

The pair clashed earlier this week after Dr Nicholl called into Mr Rees-Mogg's LBC radio show and asked "what level of mortality" he would deem acceptable in the event of a No Deal.

Mr Rees-Mogg accused the physician of "fear-mongering" and exacerbating "project fear", stating: "I don't think there's any reason to suppose that a no-deal Brexit should lead to a mortality rate."

Speaking the House of Commons, Mr Rees-Mogg said: "Preparations are in place and they are being done with remarkable efficiency."

"But yes, a lot of Remainers wish to make our skins crawl."

"What he had to say, I will repeat it, is as irresponsible as Dr Wakefield in threatening that people will die because we leave the EU. What level of irresponsibility was that?"

"And I'm afraid it seems to me that Dr David Nicholl is as irresponsible as Dr Wakefield."

Dr Nicholls, who was involved in the government's Operation Yellowhammer report into the impact of a no-deal Brexit, said that the comparison "really beggars belief".

Dr Dame Sally Davies wrote a letter to Jacob Rees-Mogg on Twitter, condemning his comments.

She wrote that she needed to express "sincere disappointment in the disrespectful way you spoke to and about Dr David Nicholl".

She called his comparison "frankly unacceptable".