Rishi Sunak says he wasn't 'allowed to talk about the side effects of lockdown' during the pandemic

The former chancellor has criticised the government for "giving too much power to scientists"


Tory leadership contender Rishi Sunak says he “wasn’t allowed to talk about the trade-off” of lockdowns during earlier phases of the pandemic, criticising Government public health interventions and scientific advisors.

Mr Sunak said one of the Government’s biggest mistakes was giving too much power to scientists and claimed the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) edited its minutes to hide dissenting opinions.

The former chancellor made the statements in an interview with the Spectator magazine.

“We shouldn’t have empowered the scientists in the way we did,” he is quoted as saying.

“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. We’d probably have made different decisions on things like schools.”

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak speaking during a hustings event at the NEC in Birmingham
Rishi Sunak speaking during a hustings event at the NEC in Birmingham

Mr Sunak claimed Sage removed some opinions from its final minutes, but said a Treasury official would listen to the meetings and brief him on the omissions.

“The Sage people didn’t realise for a very long time that there was a Treasury person on all their calls,” he said.

“A lovely lady. She was great because it meant that she was sitting there, listening to their discussions.”

The Department of Health has been contacted for comment.

It comes as Mr Sunak prepares to go head-to-head with Liz Truss once again in the penultimate hustings of the Tory leadership race on Thursday.

Ahead of the Norwich hustings Ms Truss put her focus squarely on the issues facing the East Anglian area, citing her plans of tax cuts, supply-side reform, better regulation and targeted investment zones.

Ms Truss also pledged to tackle trade union strike action, such as that at the Port of Felixstowe this week.