‘It doesn’t matter!’ Matt Hancock erupts as he awkwardly fails question on SAGE numbers

Hancock grilled on number of SAGE members

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock faced tough questions from LBC presenter Nick Ferrari over concerns government advice was confusing the public. To illustrate his point, Nick Ferrari asked Matt Hancock how many people were part of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) which collates and publishes research to aid government decisions on the pandemic. But the minister failed to say how many were part of the group before raging at Mr Ferrari stating he does not need to know the answer during an awkward clash.

Speaking on LBC, Mr Ferrari asked the health secretary: “I think even you would allow, although thank you for all the explanations, there has been a degree of confusion.

“This might be of course because of the advice we get at SAGE – do you know how many members there are on SAGE Mr Hancock?”

The Tory frontbencher tried to laugh off the questions by saying there was “a lot” of people in SAGE because there was a lot of science being done.

Mr Hancock attempted to worm his way out of answering the question by moving on to international travel to which Mr Ferrari asked the question again. 

He replied: “I don’t know the precise number and I shouldn’t need to and I don’t need to…”

The LBC host interrupted and said there were 87 participants in SAGE which could be seen as a strong reason for why there are cases of mixed messaging from government. 

Mr Hancock responded: “I don’t think that the number of participants makes a difference to the underlying science.

“And the way I as health secretary get my advice from the scientists is through the chief scientific advisor and the CMO.

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“Of course we want to hear from a broad range of voices and then they synthesise the advice for ministers so there is a process in place that happens.

“I mean, this works all the time and it’s how the government works to make sure that all the different voices – because scientists often don’t agree with each other – that is synthesised into advice to ministers.”

Mr Ferrari then asked whether Mr Hancock if he knew there were nine subcommittees of SAGE to which he did not. 

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But he erupted and said “it doesn’t matter” before reiterating he speaks to chief medical advisors to collate the information. 

Mr Ferrari explained the SAGE advisors would often speak out and share their thoughts on the pandemic which could be at odds with what the Government is doing at that time.

Professor Calum Semple who is a member of SAGE says the UK can expect to see a fourth winter wave with lockdowns as restrictions are eased. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the revised July 19 reopening date is “looking good” as the vaccination programme continues on. 

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