Rishi Sunak, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, faced scrutiny and conflicting statements regarding his “eat out to help out” scheme during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite Sunak’s claim that he had no recollection of concerns raised about the scheme, Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser at the time, affirmed that Sunak would have been aware of the objections from scientists. Vallance’s testimony before the Covid inquiry contradicted Sunak’s evidence, potentially damaging the Chancellor’s reputation.
Vallance revealed that Sunak had actively pushed back against scientific advice, emphasizing the need to handle the scientists rather than the virus. The chief scientific adviser provided evidence from his contemporaneous diary, which documented Sunak’s remarks during a meeting focused on economics. The diary entry indicated that when Sunak realized that Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, was also present in the meeting, Prime Minister Boris Johnson attempted to cover his embarrassment with bluster and waffling.
Vallance highlighted that the “eat out to help out” scheme contradicted the previously clear message about the risks of interacting with individuals from different households in enclosed environments. The discount scheme, aimed at supporting the hospitality industry, effectively reversed the previous guidance and raised concerns about increased transmission of the virus. Vallance stressed that it would have been evident to anyone that such openings carried a risk of transmission, including ministers like Sunak.
Moreover, Vallance addressed Johnson’s understanding of scientific concepts related to COVID-19. He admitted that the prime minister struggled at times to grasp fundamental ideas, such as the impact of interventions like lockdowns on infection waves. Vallance recounted instances where Johnson questioned whether the interventions were truly responsible for reducing infection peaks. Despite efforts to explain the evidence, it was challenging to ensure Johnson’s comprehension of graphs and data.
In conclusion, Vallance’s testimony adds to the controversy surrounding Rishi Sunak’s “eat out to help out” scheme during the pandemic. It suggests that Sunak would have known about scientists’ reservations regarding the scheme. Additionally, it raises questions about Johnson’s understanding of crucial scientific concepts related to COVID-19. These revelations further fuel the ongoing inquiry into the UK government’s response to the pandemic.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What was the “eat out to help out” scheme?
A: The “eat out to help out” scheme was a UK government initiative introduced in the summer of 2020. It provided discounts of up to £10 for meals at restaurants and cafes to encourage people to support the struggling hospitality industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Q: Who is Rishi Sunak?
A: Rishi Sunak is a British politician who served as the Chancellor of the Exchequer from February 2020 to October 2021. As Chancellor, he was responsible for economic and financial matters, including the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Q: Who is Sir Patrick Vallance?
A: Sir Patrick Vallance is a British scientist and the UK government’s chief scientific adviser. He played a prominent role in advising the government during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing scientific evidence and guidance on various aspects of the crisis.
Q: What is the Covid inquiry?
A: The Covid inquiry refers to the ongoing investigation into the UK government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The inquiry aims to assess the government’s decisions, actions, and strategies taken in response to the crisis and identify any shortcomings or lessons to be learned.