As the Government sets out its ‘toolbox’ for its “winter plan” which continues to hold out the threat of new restrictions, a new cross-party group of MPs and Peers has formed to hold ministers’ feet to the fire.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Pandemic Response and Recovery brings together parliamentarians of all parties from both Houses of Parliament to examine the impact on society of the Government’s pandemic policy.
The group says that its aim is to provide a forum for scientists, health professionals and other experts to engage in broad, balanced and open discussion to inform a more focused and flexible approach to Government policy. It seeks to point the way to new approaches to pandemic management which prevent avoidable suffering and loss in the future.
The Pandemic APPG is an officially registered Parliamentary Group co-chaired by Rt Hon Esther McVey MP (Conservative) and Graham Stringer MP (Labour). MPs on the Group include Conservatives Sir Charles Walker, Sir Graham Brady and Miriam Cates, Labour’s Derek Twigg and Emma Lewell-Buck, the Democratic Unionist Party’s Sammy Wilson and Ian Paisley. Peers on the group include Independent Baroness Fox of Buckley and Conservative Baroness Foster of Oxton, DBE.
Addressing its inaugural meeting, which took place on Wednesday September 8th, Robert Dingwall, Professor of Sociology at Nottingham Trent University and a former NERVTAG and JCVI member, and Dr John Lee, retired Consultant Histopathologist and former Clinical Professor of Pathology at Hull York Medical School, urged a fresh approach to policy making.
Professor Dingwall commented:
Every policy measure to mitigate the pandemic has come with costs. We must test any ongoing measures, especially non-pharmaceutical interventions, against what we once thought necessary and assess the genuine risks. It is time also, to foster wider public debate that broadens the Government’s scientific advice network to involve a whole-of-science approach.
A good society is defined by life, health, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not by the prevention of one disease alone.
Dr. John Lee added:
Preventing COVID-19 has become all consuming and has been pursued at a huge cost to society, which many predicted. We cannot continue to make policy based on the worst case scenario. We must set calm, reasonable thresholds for any future measures based on proper assessment using real world data and evidence.
It is also time to start asking serious questions. Who is in charge of running the country, scientific advisers or government? What are their conflicts of interests?
Co-Chair Graham Stringer MP said:
There has been considerable concern among many MPs and peers, myself included, about the one-sided nature of the scientific debate, which has given rise to policies that have dramatically affected the lives of constituents up and down the country.
We must ask, did the Government and its scientific advisors implement public health measures that were proportionate to the risk?
I hope that the Pandemic Response and Recovery APPG will allow and encourage a forum in which all voices will come forward and be heard. So much of the science is not settled. We look forward to hearing from a wide range of groups and individuals, scientists, health professionals, business leaders, members of the public and organisations, to inform the Group’s recommendations on future pandemic policy.
Collateral Global, the group set up by Great Barrington Declaration authors Professor Jay Bhattacharya, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Martin Kulldorff, along with Professor Carl Heneghan, will act as the new APPG’s secretariat, marshalling scientific and medical expertise to inform the group’s deliberations and recommendations.
We wish the new group every success in bringing a more balanced and well-informed debate to lawmakers.