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The Covid Inquiry

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1The Covid Inquiry Empty The Covid Inquiry Thu Jun 01, 2023 3:36 pm

Sluffy

Sluffy
Admin

It's going to be a long drawn out affair this is.

It's not even kicked off yet and already there's a stalemate and threats of legal action.

On one side you have the Chair of the Inquiry, Baroness Hallett (who is a retired judge who led the inquiry into the London bombings in 2005) and on the other side you have The Cabinet Office.

In simple terms the Inquiry wants to see ALL messages sent and received from all the relevant people involved with the decision making during Covid.

A fair enough demand you would think?

However the Cabinet Office argues that they should only send everything connected with the decisions made and keep everything none related away from the Inquiry - as otherwise it would set a precedent.

It is argued with some merit, that if every future decision is completely open to scrutiny then that would inhibit speaking freely, for fear of one day coming back to ruin peoples careers.

Think of it a bit like Parliamentary privilege where MP's can say anything they want IN Parliament without fear of being sued.

Seems to me that everything should be made available to the Inquiry or otherwise everyone will believe there is a cover up going on.

As it stands at the moment a deadline was set by the inquiry for all the messages to be provided to it by the Cabinet Office - and that deadline as just been missed. -

Deadline passes in row over WhatsApp release to Covid inquiry
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-65775321

2The Covid Inquiry Empty Re: The Covid Inquiry Thu Jun 22, 2023 12:25 pm

Sluffy

Sluffy
Admin

I thought this was interesting from Whitty today and highly relevant =

12.49

Hugo Keith KC asks whether there is enough diversity of thought in the expert committee Sage, which advised the government during the pandemic.

There were no economic or social experts in the group.

Whitty has defended the make-up of the group, which he co-chaired during the pandemic, saying it is a scientific group and it would be too unwieldly if you started adding all sorts of different experts to it.

Instead, he says the economic and societal consequences of responding to a pandemic should be done separately through a different mechanism.

But – and this became clear during the pandemic – the government did not do this.

This meant Sage’s advice and observations dominated the narrative and, some have claimed, created too narrow a prism through which the response to Covid was judged.

The focus of the debate became about how you could stop the virus, not whether the steps being taken to stop the virus were proportionate given the consequences of things like restricting gatherings and closing schools.

12.54

An unusual sound has been heard a couple of times during this morning’s proceedings – the occasional laugh from the lead counsel.

Though this is not something Chris Whitty is doing deliberately.

It happened first when he was speaking too quickly for the transcribers to note his evidence down.

But more recently when he was explaining how Sage works – the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies – after being questioned about whether more thought should have been given to the economics of a situation when Sage meet.

“If you had two economists on Sage you would not be in a situation with an economically competent body – it would be a competent scientific body with two economists”, he says.

But Whitty is making a point here that will most likely be unpacked more in the Autumn when the inquiry begins to look at lockdowns.

“I don’t think Sage people - including myself - have the competence to assure government that they’ve considered the economic problem, and they can now give a central view on it. I think that would have to be done separately”.


https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-65967979


My view fwiw, there was nothing other than SAGE for the first lockdown but in retrospect now, clearly economic and social panels of experts similar to stage should have been established and their views considered thereafter before further lockdowns were ordered.

It is of course easy to say this after the events took place and with knowing what outcomes have happened since.

3The Covid Inquiry Empty Re: The Covid Inquiry Thu Jun 22, 2023 1:31 pm

wanderlust

wanderlust
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

What I find interesting about this is that Whitty (rightly IMO) points out that "the economic and societal consequences of responding to a pandemic should be done separately through a different mechanism".

Logically, a scientist might say that a solution to overpopulation is limiting the birth rate to one child per woman for x years - which would work - but it's not for the scientist to say that in order to achieve this the government should apply enforced abortions/sterilations/vascectomies etc - clearly there has to be a social impact filter and a weighting of consequences.

However, during the pandemic, Whitty et al were wheeled out front and centre - effectively being made the "face" of government pandemic policy - which throws up a question or two.

Was this done by the government to effectively abdicate responsibility for policy making?
Or did the government not even think of tempering the advice of SAGE - which is after all only an advisory body?
Are the SAGE guys being set up as a scapegoat for the worst aspects of the social impact - or did they overstep their remit and tell the government "OK we've got this"?
Is Whitty now distancing the SAGE group from any decision-making? (which shouldn't be necessary as the only decisions they have responsibility for is what advice they should give the policymakers)
Bottom line is who actually made the policies?

I just have a feeling there's going to be a fair bit of buck-passing before this is over.

4The Covid Inquiry Empty Re: The Covid Inquiry Thu Jun 22, 2023 2:12 pm

Sluffy

Sluffy
Admin

1 = No the government didn't abdicate responsibility for policy making -

Whitty clearly states in a video at 13.27 (that I can't copy and paste on here, otherwise I would) that committees including SAGE would not give advice to government on national lockdowns unless asked to do so by the government itself.

Ergo the government can't have abdicated responsibility for policy making as they instructed SAGE to present one as scientists (and not economists or sociologists).

The government acted on the SAGE report it commissioned that they themselves requested.

2 - It would appear so far (the inquiry is currently ongoing and many other witnesses will be giving testimony) that the government did not attempt to set up economic and social expert panels as per what Whitty explicitly stated in my post immediately above yours (did you not bother to read it properly?)

3 - No SAGE is clearly not being set up as the fall guys and no they did not overstep their remit/terms of reference.

4 - No, SAGE is NOT a decision making body.  Politicians take decisions based on all the information they have at the time, part of which would be the scientific advise from SAGE (do you not understand how the Executive function of our constitution works?)

5 - The Executive decides the polices (in this case I expect it was some form of War Cabinet composed of the likes of Boris (PM), Hancock (Health), Rishi (Exchequer) plus a few other key Ministers) - all of whom would have been briefed by their relevant political advisors prior to each meeting.

The Civil Service then draft them in order to put before Parliament to bring into law.

If you understood the system you would understand that 'buck-passing' is impossible as such and that it is always the relevant Minister (or Minister's) who are accountable and are the ones named in law if anyone brings court action against the laws - such as Maugham/Good Law Practice used to do frequently until their abuse of the Judicial Review System was put a stop to by the Law Lords themselves.

5The Covid Inquiry Empty Re: The Covid Inquiry Thu Jun 22, 2023 2:52 pm

Hipster_Nebula

Hipster_Nebula
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

Biggest con ever foisted on the public.

6The Covid Inquiry Empty Re: The Covid Inquiry Fri Jun 23, 2023 1:41 am

wanderlust

wanderlust
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

Sluffy wrote:1 = No the government didn't abdicate responsibility for policy making -

Whitty clearly states in a video at 13.27 (that I can't copy and paste on here, otherwise I would) that committees including SAGE would not give advice to government on national lockdowns unless asked to do so by the government itself.

Ergo the government can't have abdicated responsibility for policy making as they instructed SAGE to present one as scientists (and not economists or sociologists).
Present as in produce one or present as in go on telly to tell the people what it is? Or both?
The government acted on the SAGE report it commissioned that they themselves requested.
What actions? Did they change the report's recommendations in any way or did they just retype it and call it a policy?
Are you saying that SAGE were the policymakers inasmuch that the government accepted the recommendations in their entirety or the government took their recommendations on board when they formulated the policy to take social impact into account as they should have? Because this is the crux of the matter.

2 - It would appear so far (the inquiry is currently ongoing and many other witnesses will be giving testimony) that the government did not attempt to set up economic and social expert panels as per what Whitty explicitly stated in my post immediately above yours (did you not bother to read it properly?)
As I said.

3 - No SAGE is clearly not being set up as the fall guys and no they did not overstep their remit/terms of reference.
Haven't seen the TOR - but if it includes "presenting a policy" in the sense of producing a policy (as opposed to making recommendations) it opens up the can of worms that is at the heart of the enquiry.

4 - No, SAGE is NOT a decision making body.  Politicians take decisions based on all the information they have at the time, part of which would be the scientific advise from SAGE (do you not understand how the Executive function of our constitution works?)
Exactly. They are not a decision-making policy but in this case it looks like they were asked to come up with a policy and front it in the media doesn't it?
5 - The Executive decides the polices (in this case I expect it was some form of War Cabinet composed of the likes of Boris (PM), Hancock (Health), Rishi (Exchequer) plus a few other key Ministers) - all of whom would have been briefed by their relevant political advisors prior to each meeting.
Confused. Did they effectively outsource policymaking to SAGE or not?

The Civil Service then draft them in order to put before Parliament to bring into law.

If you understood the system you would understand that 'buck-passing' is impossible as such and that it is always the relevant Minister (or Minister's) who are accountable and are the ones named in law if anyone brings court action against the laws - such as Maugham/Good Law Practice used to do frequently until their abuse of the Judicial Review System was put a stop to by the Law Lords themselves.
There's also a clear distinction between legal fall guys and media fall guys.
Obviously it's the Minister's legal responsibility or job as we call it...but if that Minister claims that SAGE (as the "experts") were asked to come up with the policy on the Minister's behalf it would constitute passing the buck in the eyes of the media i.e. attempting to shift the blame.

Way I see it, the government who are not Covid experts asked SAGE to come up with recommendations as it should be.
The government should then look at those recommendations and formulate a policy.
But...there is no apparent evidence (as yet) that the government did anything in the way of moulding those recommendations to formulate a policy that considered social impact and it appears that what ensued was unadulterated straight out of the box SAGE - an appearance exacerbated by SAGE's role in presenting the policy to the nation on national television. I can't recall off the top of my head another example of the government using the policy advisers to present a policy to the nation.

This grey area - how much or how little the government actually did with the recommendations before rollout will be considered in the enquiry - hence my questions as the grey area opens the door to several scenarios.

My guess would be that the whole shenanigans was commissioned by the government and they made no effort to change SAGE's recommendations to account for social impact i.e. SAGE's recommendations became the policy and the government was negligent in that regard. We'll see how it pans out.

7The Covid Inquiry Empty Re: The Covid Inquiry Fri Jun 23, 2023 3:42 am

Sluffy

Sluffy
Admin

1 - Present one as in give a presentation at the next meeting of Sage to the (presumably) War Cabinet members.

Sage is an 'internal' body, it isn't there to go on the telly - surely you knew that at least???

Clearly not.

Their report is not a policy document in the slightest, it would have been a SCIENTIFIC report as to what impact a lockdown would have on the then rate of spread of Covid in the community and how a lockdown and significantly less personal interactions nationwide, would slow that down.

The War Cabinet would then have had to consider what other factors were priorities to them at the time and needed to be actioned in advance of/during a nationwide lockdown - financial support to businesses and keeping the NHS from being swamped would obviously have been discussed.

As the War Cabinet asked Sage to report on a lockdown scenario, it clearly wasn't Sage pushing for one - was it? - so their report would be a scientific modelling report and nothing at all like an off the shelf policy document that Boris could use - you really don't understand at all how government works do you?

The policy was probably formulated by the likes of Cummings and Boris who wanted at that time to let Covid run riot until we got herd immunity (body on the streets comment from Johnson remember?) but the spread was happening so quickly that they had to do the U turn to save the NHS from being swamped.  Sage's report on what effect lockdown would have on slowing the spread - or rather how quickly it would spread if there was no lockdown, was probably the clincher for them to go down the lockdown road.

There was simply no choice and certainly no time to consider social effects of lockdown, even if it was thought about.

Future lockdowns after the initial one should have taken economic and social factors into account as Whitty said yesterday.

For whatever reasons that apparently was never done by the government - which of course in retrospect was a major error.

2 - That's not what you said.  Your initial post talked about tempering the advice of an advisory body (Sage) - that's not the same of setting up and adding to that advice from Sage with economic and social Covid advisory bodies expertise and implementing a much more targeted, encompassing and significantly broader policy range for the public and business of the UK.

3 - Again your total ignorance of government is showing.  Sage is an advisory body and advisory bodies do NOT formulate policy.  They would be better informing on the development of polices but certainly not forming one themselves to give to Boris.

That isn't how it works.

Sage would be giving what if scenarios perhaps - or answering what if questions but they certainly would never formulate government policy ever.  No committee or advisory body would have such terms of reference - it would be unconstitutional (illegal) for a start.

Cummings might though and give it to Boris - but certainly not Sage.

4 - No, no no!  What planet are you on?  Sage was NOT asked to come up with a POLICY and Sage do not front anything to the public.

Whitty and Vallance fronted the public in their job capacity, Chief Medical Officer or whatever their titles were - NOT as members of Sage.

5 - No - how many more times do you need telling that committees, advisory bodies, inquires, etc do NOT create policies - that can only be done by the Executive.  Yes their expertise will help to inform on the development of policies - but they don't create policies and simply hand them over to the Minister as a job done - as you seem to believe!!!

You need to read up on the constitution because you simply don't know what you are talking about most of the time in how you wrongly believe the government/Parliament works.

6 - Your last point simply shows your complete ignorance.

You would do well to read again what I told you previously that you decided to cross through.

Ministers are responsible for their Departments policies NOT advisory groups such as Sage.

Advisory groups, etc simply DO NOT formulate government policy, their expertise will help better inform the development of them, yes, but that is all.

You've clearly show you simply haven't the foggiest of how the constitution, Executive and Parliament of the country actually works.


Your summary at the end of your post is simply pure fantasy and has zero bearing on reality of how the system actually works.

Christ you haven't even understood that Vallance and Whitty were in front of the cameras in their JOB roles (Chief UK Medical Officer or whatever it was) they were NOT there as Sage policy makers or whatever you think they were.

Sage were asked to produce a SCIENTIFIC report and presentation (from science experts) on lockdown and NOT a POLICY document on lockdown to give to Boris for him to takeaway and implement.


You do make me laugh!

8The Covid Inquiry Empty Re: The Covid Inquiry Fri Jun 23, 2023 9:18 am

wanderlust

wanderlust
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

Hilarious.

Love the way that you fail to notice the distinctions I point out to you (intentionally to stir things up or problems with comprehension?) rephrase what I've already said and then have the temerity to suggest I don't understand.
Can't decide which bits are my favourites. Usually it's 50-50 between the pseudo-intellectual ramblings designed to give the impression you have some sort of expertise and the pompous closing statements.
Probably the former.
Anyway, I'll reserve judgement until the experts decide given that I'm not allowed an opinion or speculation (as befits a forum) and we'll see if you're as wrong about this as you were about Brexit, the Tory government, the club's never-ending impending financial meltdown and a host of other subjects you've pontificated about in the past.

Have a nice day Smile

That OK Nat? Maybe it'll encourage you to bring back a few more characters and start writing BELs again next season when I'm gone - the site certainly needs something seeing as there are only four people left who makes any serious effort to breathe life back into the strangled corpse of this once entertaining forum.

9The Covid Inquiry Empty Re: The Covid Inquiry Fri Jun 23, 2023 1:26 pm

Sluffy

Sluffy
Admin

How do you reckon you are not allowed an opinion or to speculate, everything you've ever said is still up on the forum for all to see since Nuts started?

The site is a forum isn't it and presumably you expect people to respond to your opinion or speculation don't you?

Isn't that what I've done?

Do you only accept comments that agree with your opinion or speculation and everything else is somehow trying to shut you down, particularly if it comes from me?

You've opined quite clearly that your position is that Sage has written the policy for lockdown and the government has taken it and acted upon it and even got Sage to present the policy to the public.

In doing this you believe the government will simply blame Sage for any failings of Sage's lockdown policy the government went on to implement, such as the social impact on people, because it was Sage that wrote the policy and not them!!!

I've simply pointed out that the system does not work that way and that Sage simply feeds in their expert knowledge into the cabinet/War Cabinet, for them to consider with everything else (financial, NHS potentially being swamped, impact on education, enforcement of lockdown rules, etc, etc. etc) in order for THEM to formulate the policy to put before Parliament to be voted into law.

Anyone with even the most basic rudimentary knowledge of how government works would know that this is the process and exactly what has happened in this instance as well.

I've no idea why you constantly refer that I am wrong about Brexit seeing that I never gave an opinion on it, never voted on it (you did however Hoppy10 - didn't you!) and have constantly said since that it has been an utter disaster for the country!

Also I've constantly said that all politicians and political parties are as bad as each other and no government, Tory or Labour, will get everything right or everything wrong and that BWFC IS in millions in debt and nowhere near trading financially sustainably and beholden totally to its owners - just in the same way we were to Eddie Davies (look how that ended!)

You are free to believe whatever you want, however you simply can't seem to accept to be seen wrong about anything though - especially from anything I say.

I personally don't go along with your seemingly vain attempts to make out you will be the saviour of the forum if you deign to return, or a that you are something of a martyr if you don't.

We've done alright for the last six months without you but clearly not had your voluminous mountains of posts that you make.

I personally would like you back but on the condition it won't turn into the Wanderlust and Sluffy show again.

I do believe though that will almost certainly happen.

I'm happy for you to prove me wrong but phrases like 'I have problems with comprehension', 'I make pseudo-intellectual ramblings' and that 'I'm pompous' together with making false claims about my position on Brexit, etc, - all taken from your last post above - doesn't fill me with much hope.

Other than that, have a nice day yourself too.

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