Theresa May accused Boris Johnson of choosing data to fit his coronavirus policies, as she insisted the government must reveal the economic cost of lockdown.
The Conservative former prime minister tore into predictions said to have informed her successor’s decision to impose a second national lockdown in England, which will start on Thursday and last until December 2.
But Johnson was not in the chamber to hear the criticism, as the prime minister opted to leave shortly as May started speaking, leaving MPs audibly unimpressed.
Speaking as politicians considered regulations for a second lockdown, May said: “This pandemic has challenged governments across the world and ministers have been under relentless pressure in dealing with this issue.
“But, just as ministers are making tough decisions, so are parliament, and parliament will make better decisions if it is fully and properly informed.”
She criticised Labour’s circuit-breaker proposal, claiming it could have ended up being repeated “again and again and again”.
But she then turned her fire on the projections used by Johnson.
She said: “It appears the decision to go towards this lockdown was partly, mainly, to some extent based on the prediction of 4,000 deaths a day.
“Yet, if you look at the trajectory showing in that graph that went to 4,000 deaths a day, we would have reached 1,000 deaths a day by the end of October.
“The average in the last week of October was 259, by my calculations. Each of those deaths is a sadness and our thoughts are with the families, but it’s not 1,000 deaths a day.
“So the prediction was wrong before it was even used.
“And this leads to a problem for the government – for many people it looks as if the figures are chosen to support the policy rather than the policy being based on the figures.
“We need these proper analyses. We need to know the details behind these models. We need to be able to assess the validity of those models.”
May also raised concerns about a lack of data on the cost of the government’s Covid-19 decisions, including on mental health, domestic abuse, non-Covid-19 treatments, “possibly more suicides” and to the economy.
She told MPs: “Jobs lost, livelihoods shattered, businesses failing, whole sectors damaged. What sort of airline industry are we going to have coming out of this? What sort of hospitality sector? What sort of small independent shops will be left?
“The government must have made this analysis, made this assessment – let us see it and make our own judgments.”
On public worship, May added: “My concern is that the government today making it illegal to conduct an act of public worship, for the best of intentions, sets a precedent that could be misused for a government in the future with the worst of intentions.”