Former chief scientific adviser ‘cannot recall a Cobra meeting not attended by PM of time’

PUBLISHED: 10:40 20 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:52 20 April 2020

Prime minister Boris Johnson during the general election (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Prime minister Boris Johnson during the general election (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

2019 Getty Images

A former chief scientific adviser has said that he cannot a recall a Cobra meeting which was not attended by the prime minister of the time.

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Professor Sir David King, who was chief scientific adviser from 2000 to 2007, was asked about The Sunday Times investigation in which a Whitehall source claimed the government “missed the boat on testing and PPE” (personal protective equipment) and “just watched” as the death toll mounted in Wuhan, China.

Sir David told Sky News: “What really is emphasised in that piece is the fact that the government ministers had their eye off the ball.

“They were totally focused on other issues such as Brexit, and the celebration of us emerging from Europe.

“The prime minister had other things on his mind, and we’re fully aware of this, but apparently he didn’t attend five Cobra meetings on this issue.


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“And when Michael Gove says ‘but prime ministers don’t attend all Cobra meetings’, I cannot recall a Cobra meeting when it was called with Blair or Brown as prime minister when the prime minister wasn’t in the chair.”

The chief scientific adviser served both under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

His comments come after a wide-ranging report in the Sunday Times which said Boris Johnson missed five meetings of the key Cobra committee in the run-up to the coronavirus outbreak.

Michael Gove, in response, claimed that “most Cobra meetings don’t have the prime minister attending them”.

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