Politics

Sir Patrick Vallance has said COVID restrictions were “for everybody” after Boris Johnson said lockdown leaving dos were “absolutely essential” and that he relied on incorrect advice from Number 10 advisers.

The UK’s chief scientific adviser became a household name during the pandemic as he stood beside the then-prime minister during daily COVID briefings.

This week, Mr Johnson was questioned by MPs on the privileges committee as they investigate whether he misled parliament by denying Downing Street gatherings during COVID broke his own rules.

The former leader accepted he did mislead the Commons with his denials but said his claims were made in “good faith” and he was relying on incorrect advice from his advisers.

Mr Johnson defended some of the events in question as he insisted that because they were leaving dos for staff, they were essential.

On Friday, Sir Patrick was asked what advice he would give to someone if he had been quizzed during a COVID news conference about whether a company could have a leaving do to “boost staff morale”.

The chief scientific adviser said: “I would’ve said that would be an answer for the PM.

“I’ve been pretty clear, I’m on the public record of saying that the advice was there for everybody and everybody should follow it.”

His comments appear to be a dig at Mr Johnson, who doubled down on insisting the gatherings were legal at the time, as he was questioned for three hours on Wednesday.

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Highlights of Boris Johnson’s evidence

Mr Johnson said: “I know that people around the country will look at those events and think they look like the very kind of events that we or I were forbidding to everyone else.

“I will believe till the day I die that it was my job to thank staff for what they had done, especially during a crisis like COVID, which kept coming back, which seemed to have no end.”

When questioned about a specific event pictured in November 2020, which showed Mr Johnson toasting staff, he said: “I believe it was absolutely essential for work purposes.”

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At the time, England was in another lockdown and people could only leave their homes for specific reasons, including for work if they could not work from home.

Mr Johnson had made the announcement, alongside Sir Patrick, less than a month before the event in question.

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January 2021 – Vallance: ‘Virus is with us forever’

Read more:
What did we learn from committee grilling of Boris Johnson?

What happens if Boris Johnson found to have misled MPs?

The privileges committee is now considering Mr Johnson’s written and oral evidence.

If they find the former prime minister did mislead parliament it will recommend a punishment, which could result in a by-election for his seat.

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