Dominic Cummings pressured Boris Johnson to scrap SAGE committee, insider reveals
- Credit: PA
Dominic Cummings urged Boris Johnson to scrap the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), an inside source has revealed.
Johnson was being told the disband the committee over fears some experts were leaking information to the press in order to pressure the prime minister into pursuing tougher coronavirus restrictions.
A source told the Mail that matters came to a head last year when Cummings suggested getting rid of the body altogether.
Cummings, Johnson's senior adviser at the time, was becoming frustrated by members of the committee talking publicly "in a personal capacity" about sensitive issues on which they were advising No 10.
"Dom got to the point where he'd had enough of SAGE," the source said. "Every time we had an important decision coming up, there would be members popping up in the media pushing their own agendas. He wanted to scrap the whole thing."
The advice was rejected by the prime minister.
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SAGE meetings have a shifting membership drawn from a panel of about 90 scientists and medical experts.
Sources have said that differences of opinion within the group are often sharp. Last week, Sir Jeremy Farrar, who is director of the Wellcome Trust, warned that the number of Covid-19 infections in the UK needed to be below 10,000 before restrictions are lifted.
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In a separate intervention, Professor Neil Ferguson suggested it could take a year to get back to normal, and a third adviser, Dr Mike Tildesley, questioned whether it was safe to relax exercise rules at the same time as reopening schools.
Cummings sparked controversy last April when he attended a number of SAGE meetings. Critics said his presence could impact the group's independence while supporters said it was important for senior government aides to listen into discussions.
This comes as the prime minister's former adviser admitted to being a driving force in the allocation of a government contract to a friend's firm.
Campaigners took legal action against the Cabinet Office over the decision to pay more than £500,000 of taxpayers’ money to research firm Public First, whose founding member had personal links to Cummings.
Cummings said although he recommended Public First for a research contract, he did not request it be followed through with. A High Court judge is deciding whether to progress with the case.
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