Sir Patrick Vallance has hit back at Rishi Sunak’s suggestion that scientists were too “empowered” during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The former chief scientific adviser rebuffed that idea, in his witness statement to the Covid-19 Inquiry.
The Prime Minister made the remarks in an interview with The Spectator during last summer’s Tory leadership contest.
“We shouldn’t have empowered the scientists in the way we did.
Like many others I received abuse and threats and I was concerned for the wellbeing and safety of my family
“And you have to acknowledge trade-offs from the beginning. If we’d done all of that, we could be in a very different place,” he told the magazine.
Sir Patrick, responding to an inquiry question about whether decision-makers relied too heavily on Sage scientists, said: “It is unclear to me what empowerment is being referred to.
“Science advisers advise and ministers decide. We provided science advice and it was for ministers to take policy decisions.
“Sage scientists very clearly identified that there would be detriments to imposing stringent behavioural and social interventions, including economic detriments.
“I was among those who suggested forming an equivalent group to provide independent economic advice.
“My understanding is that HM Treasury did not wish to do that.”
Elsewhere, in the 241-page witness statement, Sir Patrick said that there were times during the crisis that he considering resigning.
He told the inquiry that he “certainly found the pressure” on himself and his family “difficult”.
“Like many others I received abuse and threats and I was concerned for the wellbeing and safety of my family.
“At times those factors did lead me to question whether I should continue.
“I also found people breaking the lockdown rules very difficult and considered what I should do in response, but decided that I would help most by continuing with my job.”