Public ‘deserve answers’ about secret spy-led committee helping plan UK’s local lockdown response, senior MP tells ministers
- Dr Greg Clark MP said the UK’s Joint Biosecurity Centre is ‘far too opaque’
- He said the British public ‘deserve answers’ from the highly-secretive group
- JBC advises decisions about widely-impactful local lockdowns across country
The Government has been urged to lift the lid on the highly-secretive Joint Biosecurity Centre which took over the UK’s coronavirus response in July.
The JBC – which was set up in May at the cost of £9billion – has been slammed as ‘far too opaque’.
MP and chairman of the science and technology committee Dr Greg Clark said the British public ‘deserve answers’ from the group – which advises decisions about widely-impactful local lockdowns up and down the country.
Little is known about the JBC – which is headed by Dr Clare Gardiner, a qualified epidemiologist, medical researcher, and cybersecurity director at GCHQ – and it is unclear how much engagement it has with independent scientists.
What is known, however, is that that JBC decides on national alert levels and puts forward actions to help combat any local outbreaks.
On Monday, vast swathes of the north could be placed in Tier Three lockdown, with pubs, gyms and casinos potentially among the businesses told to close for six months – with monthly assessments.
MP and chairman of the science and technology committee Dr Greg Clark said the British public ‘deserve answers’ from the Joint Biosecurity Centre- which advises decisions about widely-impactful local lockdowns up and down the country
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured) is expected to address Parliament to reveal the new nationwide three-tier system of restrictions as cases continue to rise
The Prime Minister is expected to address Parliament to reveal the new nationwide three-tier system of restrictions as cases continue to rise.
Mr Clark told The Daily Telegraph: ‘The transparency of the JBC is simply not good enough at the moment.
‘Its role in the response to the pandemic is far too opaque, and that needs to change.’
Civil servants make up a significant amount of the JBC’s staff, meaning releasing their identities was not suitable, a source said.
A Health Department spokesperson said the JBC does not make any decisions itself and aims to be as open as it can be.
In May, the Government bowed to mounting pressure and release the names of the 50 experts across many fields who sit on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
In July, Matt Hancock (pictured) confirmed Number 10’s scientific advisory panel SAGE was downgraded and the JBC would take over the UK’s coronavirus response
The names were not previously published on security and independence grounds.
In July, Matt Hancock confirmed Number 10’s scientific advisory panel SAGE was downgraded and the JBC would take over the UK’s coronavirus response.
SAGE took a backseat now that Covid-19 is a ‘semi-permanent’ problem and not an emergency like it was during the darkest days of the crisis back in April, the Health Secretary said.
The JBC’s staff consist of epidemiologists and data analysts but its structure, and whether experts will be paid by the government, have not yet been announced.
It’s boss Dr Gardiner reports to Baroness Dido Harding, the chief of NHS Test and Trace and the entire JBC organisation falls under the control of the Department of Health, which answers to Mr Hancock.
It is currently unclear exactly how the JBC will operate with other bodies like Public Health England.