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Thu, 9 July 2020

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Minister says Sage membership won’t be published amid row over Dominic Cummings’ role in key coronavirus meetings

Minister says Sage membership won’t be published amid row over Dominic Cummings’ role in key coronavirus meetings

Dominic Cummings is the Prime Minister’s most senior adviser.

2 min read

Dominic Raab has rejected calls for the Government to reveal who sits on its top coronavirus advisory committee, amid a row over the role played by senior Number 10 aide Dominic Cummings.

The Foreign Secretary, who is standing in for Boris Johnson ahead of his return to work on Monday, said there were concerns that making public the membership of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) could put those on it at risk of “pressure” and “undue influence”.

Labour, as well as Tory MPs David Davis and Greg Clark have called on the Government to shed more light on the committee after The Guardian revealed that Mr Cummings had attended key meetings.

Mr Davis called on the Government to publish the full membership of Sage, and demanded the removal of “any non-scientist members”, while former chief scientific adviser Sir David King said it would be “simply inappropriate” for Mr Cummings to play a major role in the committee’s work.

Number 10 has already pushed back strongly at The Guardian’s story, which reports that Mr Cummings and Ben Warner, a data scientist who worked on the Vote Leave campaign in 2016, were among 23 attendees present at a meeting of Sage on the day Boris Johnson introduced a nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Downing Street said: “Sage provides independent scientific advice to the Government. Political advisers have no role in this.”

Mr Raab on Sunday said Sage already released its advice “a couple of weeks” after it had been discussed to ensure it was “properly tested and carefully checked before being put out”.

But he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge: “We don’t release as a matter of practice the names of all the members of Sage because the risk of them being subject to pressure, undue influence things like that.”

And the Foreign Secretary rejected claims there had been a “lack of transparency” from the Government over the work of the top advisory group. 

“We’ve had the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, along with politicians like me standing up on a daily basis answering the questions, setting out their advice and making sure that we communicate as clearly as possible to the public what that advice is,” he said.


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