SIX members of the Government’s scientific advisory committee have received gongs in the Queen’s honours – despite the fact their advice could be subject to a future inquiry.
The SAGE members will be made OBE for their work during the pandemic though Tory MPs have claimed the decision is “premature”.
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The Daily Mail reports that the move has provoked the fury of Conservative MPs who say that some of their advice has proved controversial and could be subject to an investigation.
Boris Johnson has announced that a full inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic will be held to examine decisions made by ministers as well as guidance from scientific advisers.
The government’s scientific advisers have recommended a number of measures to slow the spread – ranging from the closure of pubs and the two-metre social distancing rule to a herd immunity strategy.
Former Brexit secretary David Davis said that while the members of SAGE deserve recognition, their advice hasn’t always been correct and the move could prejudice a future investigation.
He told the Mail: “There may end up being a major inquiry, and that shouldn’t be biased.
“Receiving an honour may also bias how their advice is received.
“’So I think this is not wise, though it may not be wrong.
“Their advice has been controversial and has sometimes changed and was sometimes wrong, though this is unsurprising giving the difficult of responding to an unprecedented pandemic.
“So while that is reasonable, it does make the early award of an honour unwise and premature.”
Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne said that SAGE members “work very hard and are thoroughly deserving” but added that when “the finger pointing starts, I don’t think an honour would save anyone”.
Which SAGE members will be made OBE?
Six members of the SAGE advisory group will be made OBE despite Tory MPs warning the decision is ‘premature’.
- Professor Graham Medley, an infectious disease specialist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, will be honoured.
- Professor Calum Semple, who is Professor of Child Health and Outbreak Medicine at the University of Liverpool, will also be made OBE.
- Professor Catherine Noakes, an expert on airborne infection at the University of Leeds, will be honoured.
- Professor Julia Gog, a Maths expert at Cambridge University, has also been honoured for services to public health during the pandemic.
- Dr James Rubin, an academic psychologist and Reader in the Psychology of Emerging Health Risks at King’s College London, will be made OBE for his work during the pandemic.
- Professor Lucy Yardley, a health psychology expert at the University of Bristol and University of Southampton is also honoured and has previously criticised the government’s “top down rules”
Among those being made OBE are Professor Graham Medley, an infectious disease specialist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Professor Medley has previously suggested that herd immunity was the only solution for tackling the virus – advice which the government initially considered but eventually dismissed in favour of lockdown.
In September, Professor Medley wanted that the UK could see 100 deaths a day in three to four weeks.
Other advisers who have been made OBE include Professor Calum Semple, who is Professor of Child Health and Outbreak Medicine at the University of Liverpool.
He called for a brief national lockdown to slow the second wave of the virus – and has previously suggested it is as deadly as Ebola which caused tens of thousands of deaths in West Africa.
Professor Catherine Noakes, an expert on airborne infection at the University of Leeds, slammed the government for relaxing the two-metre rule.
Professor Julia Gog, a Maths expert at Cambridge University, has also been honoured for services to public health during the pandemic as well as Dr James Rubin, a behavioural expert at King’s College London.
Dr Rubin has long called for ministers to be transparent with the British public about the effect of lockdown measures and the importance of maintaining public trust.
Professor Lucy Yardley, a health psychology expert at the University of Bristol and University of Southampton is also honoured and has previously criticised the government’s “top down rules”.
She told the BBC: “I think it is a real problem that people are trying to follow top-down rules that are changing all the time and are different in different places and in different organisations.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman told the Mail: “The Independent Science and Technology Committee set a high bar for moving forward with recommendations at this time – and recognising that work in so many areas is on-going.
“The Committee looked for vital, often voluntary, contributions to the pandemic response with frontline impact, alongside extraordinary career wide contributions.”
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