Dominic Raab says public can expect different experts at Downing Street briefings
PUBLISHED: 19:48 15 June 2020 | UPDATED: 21:09 15 June 2020
The foreign secretary has insisted that the experts advising the government will continue to appear at Downing Street briefings - but they may not be those the public are used to seeing as they draw in advisers from different areas to help explain policy announcements.
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Dominic Raab was asked at the latest briefing why weekly appearances by experts have reduced since the start of the month.
It followed reports that chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, were on “resignation watch”.
Both men made their second appearance at a Downing Street briefing this month alongside Boris Johnson last Wednesday, but other experts have not appeared in June.
Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam last appeared at a briefing on May 30, while Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, last attended on May 31.
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, has attended a briefing once in June so far after appearing eight times in May.
Appearing alone at Monday’s briefing, Raab said: “In terms of presence at these press conferences, scientists and the chief and deputy medical officers will continue to come and attend these press conferences.
“I think it is also true to say that as we go down the road map and start to talk about the changes we are making, whether it is to business, schools or other areas, we will also bring other independent experts along and make sure we can answer the full range of questions that people have.”
After it was put to him that there were some questions that medical experts would be more equipped to answer than ministers, Raab added: “Well, you haven’t tried me on a question I can’t answer yet but I am happy to be proved wrong.
“Look, you are right to say the scientists and the medical adviser are important.
“They will continue to attend these press conferences, perhaps not on a daily basis - they’ve got a huge amount of other work to do - and undoubtedly the politicians need to answer the judgment calls we make based on the evolving science.”
Earlier the prime minister’s official spokesman was asked if there was a problem as there are now fewer appearances by the scientists.
He said: “No - last week you saw, from memory, the chief medical officer, the chief scientific adviser, you saw NHS England’s medical director, you saw Baroness Harding who is in charge of test and trace, you also saw the Health and Safety Executive and a couple of others as well...
“There won’t be an expert there every day but you will still see them.”
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