It is “unacceptable” that Boris Johnson’s advisor Dominic Cummings has a spot on the UK’s independent scientific advisory group while no representative from the Welsh Government can contribute, according to Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price.
The Guardian newspaper revealed this weekend that the chief medical officers and chief scientific advisers from the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are only classified as observers on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
Meanwhile, scientists Sage were “shocked, concerned and worried for the impartiality of advice” after Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s Chief Adviser, began attending, they said.
This morning Wales’ First Minister, Mark Drakeford, told the BBC that he did not believe Wales was “disadvantaged” by only having observer status on the group.
Unlike Cummings, however, Wales’ representatives are unable to ask questions unless they are submitted in writing in advance.
Plaid Cymru called on the Welsh Government to publish details of what it agreed to in terms of its SAGE membership.
The party’s leader Adam Price said that public interest demands that the Welsh Government be transparent about the nature of the scientific advice it has requested and received.
“It would be unacceptable for Downing Street’s chief spin doctor to have more rights on the committee than Wales’ Chief Scientific Adviser,” he said.
“It’s also in the public interest for the Welsh Government to publish the questions it has put to SAGE and the replies it has received.”
However, Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies played down the suggestion that there was anything untoward in Dominic Cummings attending the meetings.
“From my membership of the Covid Core Group of the Welsh Government, I know full well that special advisers within government attend these meetings,” he said.
“This is how governments should and do operate in both Westminster and in Cardiff.”
According to the Guardian, which reveal Dominic Cummings’ role on Sage, two attendes have expressed alarm at Cummings’ involvement on the group.
One said they were “shocked” when the political advisor first began participating in Sage discussions in February. Until then they believed the group should be providing “unadulterated scientific data” without any political input, they said.
Another attendee told the newspaper they felt Cummings’ interventions had sometimes inappropriately influenced what is supposed to be an impartial scientific process.
“I have been concerned sometimes that Sage has become too operational, so we’ve ended up looking as though we are making decisions,” they said, making clear that Cummings had been involved on those occasions. “It contravenes previous guidelines about how you make sure you get impartial scientific advice going through to politicians, who make the decisions.”