Today, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey has raised concerns that the Prime Minister has misled Parliament regarding his response to his question yesterday on the changing of the Government's slogan, calling on Boris Johnson to correct the record urgently.
Yesterday, Ed Davey asked the Prime Minister to confirm "reports that neither the chief medical officer nor the chief scientific adviser signed off yesterday’s shift in the public health message from “Stay at home” to “Stay alert”?" - which the Prime Minister denied.
However, at the press conference yesterday evening both Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, refused to confirm they directly signed off the new slogan.
Following this, Ed Davey has today written a letter (below) to the Prime Minister stating that "if you have misled Parliament, inadvertently or otherwise, that this is incredibly serious" and that he must "attend the House to correct the record at your earliest convenience".
Further to the letter, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:
"Millions of people across the UK have given up their freedom in following the Government's advice to slow the spread of coronavirus and keep each other safe, with many risking their livelihoods entirely. In the past 48 hours we have seen the Government make a total mess of their public health communications as they changed the advice and messaging, creating more confusion than clarity.
"Yesterday, I directly asked the Prime Minister to confirm whether the reports that neither the Chief Medical Office, Chris Whitty, nor the Chief Scientific Officer, Patrick Vallance, had signed off the change in slogan were true. He stated that those reports were "not right".
"However at the press conference just hours later, both the Chief Medical Office and Chief Scientific Officer refused to confirm they directly signed off the slogan, with Boris Johnson dodging the question altogether. This is not acceptable. If the Prime Minister has misled Parliament, that is incredibly serious and at the very least he must come to the House of Commons and correct the record immediately."
The text of the letter to the Prime Minister is as follows:
The British public have made huge sacrifices in giving up their freedoms over the past couple of months. In following the Government's advice to stay home and save lives, the dedication of millions of people has meant we have started to see a decline in the spread of coronavirus.
The Liberal Democrats have been willing to support these policies because this is a national crisis, when everyone must work together, and because your Government has continually confirmed you will follow the science and the advice of experts.
Yet over the past two days I fear your public health communications could well end up putting the British people’s achievements at risk. They have been confusing and lacked UK-wide support.
That is why I have been so keen to discover the scientific and evidential basis for the change in messaging. You may recall that I asked for this and for greater transparency during your phone call with Opposition Party leaders on Sunday.
It is also why when, having read press reports that the change in public health messaging had not been signed off by either the Chief Medical Office or the Chief Scientific Officer, that during your statement to the House on Monday I asked you directly about that. In response you refuted these suggestions and stated that those reports were "not right".
I was therefore extremely concerned to watch at the press conference just hours later both the Chief Medical Office and Chief Scientific Officer refuse to confirm they had directly signed off on the new message of “Stay Alert” – seemingly in direct contradiction to your answer to me.
I think we can both agree that if you have misled Parliament, inadvertently or otherwise, that this is incredibly serious. I write to you in the hope that not only can you clear up this discrepancy, but that you attend the House to correct the record at your earliest convenience.
I look forward to your response.
Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats