Sir Patrick Vallance – one of the Government’s most senior advisers during the Covid pandemic – is to give evidence to the UK’s public inquiry.
The former chief scientific adviser is scheduled to speak all day on Monday, followed by England’s chief medical officer Sir Chris Whitty on Tuesday and his former deputy, Sir Jonathan Van-Tam, on Wednesday.
Sir Patrick’s diaries from the pandemic have been in the spotlight during the inquiry after he revealed that former prime minister Boris Johnson once described coronavirus as “nature’s way of dealing with old people”.
Extracts from Sir Patrick’s diary have been used during the inquiry to look at the work of key figures, including Cabinet ministers, ex-Downing Street director of communications Lee Cain and former cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill.
One entry recorded that the former PM had referred to the Treasury as the “pro-death squad” when he wanted the department to back him in arguing for a path to eased restrictions.
Sir Patrick, who served as the Government’s chief scientific adviser from 2018 to 2023, also wrote about his frustrations in dealing with the then-prime minister.
“(Mr Johnson is) obsessed with older people accepting their fate and letting the young get on with life and the economy going,” he said.
“Quite bonkers set of exchanges,” he wrote, referring to a WhatsApp group including Mr Johnson.
Sir Patrick also said that he and Sir Chris felt Number 10 officials were trying to “strong-arm” them into appearing by Mr Johnson’s side at a Downing Street press conference following the then-prime minister’s ex-chief adviser Dominic Cummings’ press conference on his lockdown trip to Barnard Castle.
The journey was clearly against the rules and Mr Cummings’ televised appearance before the media was a “car crash”, the former chief scientist said in an entry in May 2020.
Sir Patrick has objected to the publication of his pandemic-era diary in full, describing the notes as a “brain dump” written “at the end of immensely stressful days to protect his mental health”.
Inquiry chairwoman Baroness Heather Hallett has yet to make a decision on whether the entries should be disclosed in their entirety.
Sir Patrick has always maintained it was not his job to tell Mr Johnson and the Cabinet what they wanted to hear, but to make clear the scientific evidence.
In October 2021, he told the BBC: “My job is not to sugarcoat it. My job is not to tell them things they want to hear… it’s to make sure that they understand what the science at that moment is saying, what the uncertainties are, and to try to make that as clear as possible.”
The Government’s current chief scientific adviser, Dame Angela McLean, will give evidence to the inquiry on Wednesday, while Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch and Dame Jenny Harries, who is head of the UK Health Security Agency, will give evidence on Thursday.