Government refuses to release minutes of coronavirus meetings between ministers and SAGE advisers
- Credit: Archant
The government has come under renewed pressure to release minutes from Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) meetings after it refused to do so during the coronavirus.
In a letter addressed to the science and technology committee chair, Greg Clark, Sir Patrick Vallance, Boris Johnson's chief scientific advisor, said secret advice shared during SAGE meeting would not be published until the end of the Covid-19 epidemic.
Vallance argued this is to protect the identity of scientists who participate in the bi-weekly meetings with Downing Street officials.
You may also want to watch:
But, according to the 2011 Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees, minute takers do not need to release the names members in official documentation, calling into question Vallance's motives to withhold that information.
- 1 Tory minister admits UK rejected EU's music visa offer in order to 'take back control' of borders
- 2 Priti Patel fails to appear in Commons to answer questions on missing police records
- 3 Leave EU website suspended after EU registry blocks move to Ireland
- 4 Iain Duncan Smith defends calling Donald Trump 'a decent man'
- 5 The bigot we should have called out on day one
- 6 Kwasi Kwarteng confirms post-Brexit review of workers' rights
- 7 Bob Geldof vindicated over pro-EU fishing stunt, suggests broadcaster
- 8 Boris Johnson blames seafood companies for post-Brexit sales slump
- 9 The Tory MPs who failed to vote against a Universal Credit cut
- 10 Comedian wins praise after shaming No 10 during Dancing on Ice appearance
In the letter, which The New European has seen, Vallance wrote: 'The decision to not disclose SAGE membership for the time being is based upon advice from the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure and is in line with the standard procedure for COBR meetings, to which SAGE gives advice.
'This contributes towards safeguarding individual members personal security and protects them from lobbying and other forms of unwanted influence which may hinder their ability to give impartial advice. Of course, we do not stop Individuals from revealing that they have attended SAGE.'
The advisor has promised to disclose names with the permission of meeting-goers and other supporting documents at the end of the coronavirus epidemic. He has asked all independent modelling groups that advise SAGE to publish their own codes.
The committee's decision-making process has come under intense public scrutiny after the government ditched plans for a mass testing, tracking and tracing campaign early on in the coronavirus outbreak.
Despite the government publishing some documents - such as modellings - critics say this does little to explain what ministers thought of 'herd immunity' and what role behavioural scientists played in strategic planning.
Calls to release more information were notched up last month when a group health experts published a letter in the scientific journal, the Lancet, demanding ministers release conversations now.
Imperial College health professor Azeem Majeed backed the move on Twitter: 'When the government say their Covid-19 strategy is 'led by the science' but then refuse to publish the minutes or membership of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) or allow the members of SAGE to debate with its critics publicly, that's dogma, not science.'
Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips agreed: 'There needs to be complete transparency on the scientific advice they [ministers] are given, publish all SAGE meeting minutes, because for example I want to know if the advice on, for example, mask wearing by the public is based on science or the lack of supply of masks.'
The Scottish government has taken the unprecedented step of publishing the names officials in similar meetings north of the border.
Become a Supporter
The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.