‘No evidence, no transparency, pure dogma’: Sunak’s Treasury under the spotlight at Covid inquiry

Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s former chief scientific adviser, accused the Treasury during the pandemic of “pure dogma”, private notes written at the time reveal. 

Questioned at the Covid inquiry yesterday, Sir Patrick said his comments in October 2021 were probably made late at night in “frustration”.

The entry said: “Economic predictions. HMT (the Treasury) saying economy nearly back to normal and Plan B would cost £18 billion. No evidence, no transparency, pure dogma and wrong throughout.”

Questioned on the comments, Sir Patrick said: “I did think there was a lack of transparency on the economic side and it was difficult to know exactly what modelling had been done, and what input there had been to various assertions and comments made.”

This was one of a number of revelations at the Covid Inquiry yesterday as it was also revealed that Sir Patrick described Boris Johnson as “bamboozled” by graphs and data.

The private notes said the ex-PM appeared “broken” as he warned “we are too s*** to get our act together. 

Giving testimony yesterday, Sir Patrick also said it was “highly likely” that the then-chancellor Rishi Sunak‘s Eat Out to Help Out scheme drove up Covid deaths.

He revealed that scientists were not told about the plan to get people back into restaurants before it was announced in August 2020.

Sir Patrick said: “It would have been very obvious to anyone that this would inevitably cause and increase in transmission risk, and I think that would have been obvious to ministers.”

Elsewhere, Sir Patrick’s diary said Rishi Sunak was overheard saying ministers should focus on “handling the scientists, not handling the virus”.

The July 2 2020 entry states: “They then got flustered when the CMO [Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty] chipped in later and they realised he had been there all along. PM [Boris Johnson] blustered and waffled for five mins to cover his embarrassment.”

Sir Patrick also revealed yesterday that he pushed for imposing lockdown in London earlier as Covid was spreading rapidly.

He said that this prompted criticism from then-chancellor Rishi Sunak. 

He said: “I made that point at the meeting. It was discussed, there was a very clear rejection of that proposal. And certainly, I don’t think the chancellor looked terribly pleased at that moment”.

When asked why Sunak was not pleased, Sir Patrick said: “Well, quite rightly, he’s concerned about the economy and London is very much the engine of the economy.”

After Sir Patrick’s testimony yesterday, professor Sir Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, is set to be the latest high-profile figure to reveal his first-hand experience of the Covid pandemic when he gives evidence to the inquiry later today.

Alongside Sir Patrick, Sir Chris became a household name when the pair appeared alongside politicians at the daily Covid news conferences.

As chief medical officer, Sir Chris is responsible for providing public health and clinical advice to the Department of Health and the rest of government.

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