‘No idea’ why Government didn’t listen to SAGE in September, says Tory MP

1 November 2020, 13:35 | Updated: 1 November 2020, 13:40

By Joe Cook

Conservative MP Chris Green has told LBC’s Swarbrick on Sunday he has “no idea” why the Government didn’t listen to SAGE in September and implement a national lockdown then.

The MP for Bolton West also revealed he believes the “Prime Minister decided about a month ago to go for a national circuit breaker” and said the Government should have built cross party unity with Sir Keir Starmer over the issue, rather than criticising his calls for a national lockdown.

Mr Green resigned from his position as Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Department for Education on 13 October, over the government’s approach to coronavirus restrictions in the north of England.

“I wish they would change their approach”, he told Tom, adding: “I am not 100 percent certain, but I am expecting to be voting against the Government for the second lockdown.”

“The Government isn’t even giving enough time for its own tiered strategy to work,” he explained.

“When people say it is following the science, well when the Government introduced tier one, two and three, Chris Whitty was saying ‘these won’t be enough’.

“At that time the science and SAGE were saying ‘this won’t be enough’. So if the Government is following the science, they seem to be doing it in a very erratic way.”

Read more: England prepares for second national lockdown lasting until December

Asked by Tom why the Government did not listen to SAGE’s recommendation to implement a lockdown in September, Mr Green said: “I have no idea.

“I do think it is extraordinary, we hear this was all science based policy and yet we don’t have the scientific thresholds to say you move from tier one, to two, to three.”

He added: “I think the Prime Minister decided about a month ago to go for a national circuit breaker.

“That is when that language first emerged and it was at that time suggested the half-term would be the right time.

“So I don’t understand why the Prime Minister didn’t just agree with Keir Starmer and say: ‘You know what, you’re right. The scientists, or at least certain scientists, are saying this is the route we have got to follow. Let’s follow that route and have cross party unity’.

“I don’t know why they didn’t do that, but it causes more confusion and you think of businesses, you think of people’s health.

"This confusion I think will deter people from going to see their GP, deter people from going to hospital. It is causing huge problems.”

Read more: Keir Starmer: 'Regrettable' that Government waited to bring in second lockdown

Mr Green was speaking following Labour leader Keir Starmer’s comments to LBC that the Government "missed the opportunity" of using school half term last week as part of a lockdown, which could have slowed the rise in cases.

Labour called for a two to three-week circuit break on October 13 - three weeks ago - which Sir Keir said the Government "rejected and ridiculed."

Sir Keir told LBC: “It’s regrettable that the Government has left it this late to bring in a lockdown.

Despite some opposition within the Conservative party, Boris Johnson’s lockdown measures are expected to pass comfortably through the House of Commons in a vote on Wednesday.

Read more: Covid outbreak 'unlikely to be completely controlled' by December 2, SAGE member tells LBC

Also speaking on Swarbrick on Sunday, Senior Tory MP Robert Halfon defended the government’s handling of the pandemic, telling Tom: “Everything the Government does isn’t the best option, it is the least worst option."

The Chair of the Education Select Committee continued: “I think the Prime Minister, in terms of covid, is facing a very difficult situation. He is trying to walk that tightrope between the nation’s economy and the nation’s health.

“It is not an easy tightrope to walk and it is easy for people - armchair critics - to say x and y the decision is wrong.

“But as I say, this is not just happening in the United Kingdom it is happening across Western Europe.”