Sir Patrick Vallance today said it was ‘completely wrong’ that ministers hid behind their insistence that they were simply ‘following the science’ during Covid.
Addressing the Covid Inquiry, No10’s ex-chief scientific adviser argued there is ‘no such thing as the science’ because it is ‘a moving body of knowledge’. Policymakers ‘hid behind this at times’, he argued.
The term ‘following the science’, wheeled out at Downing Street press briefings at the height of the pandemic and used to justify lockdown restrictions, was taken to mean that the Government was ‘slavishly’ following advice, Sir Patrick said.
Sir Patrick, who headed up SAGE before standing down from the £185,000-a-year role, said: ‘The repeated assertion undermined the importance of ministerial judgement, and the accountability of ministers for decisions.’
He said he welcomed the mantra originally because it showed that ministers were ‘listening to us’ and ‘that’s not always the case in Government’, adding: ‘But I think the way in which this was heard and possibly meant, in terms of slavishly following the science, obeying it at all times, it’s completely wrong.’