During a tense inquiry, Boris Johnson was reminded of all the instances he had advocated for letting Covid spread freely.
During the Covid-19 Inquiry, Rishi Sunak stated that it was the correct decision to implement the Eat Out to Help Out program. He also explained that it was created with safety in mind during the easing of lockdown restrictions.
During the crisis, the prime minister, who previously held the role of chancellor, supported the Treasury despite it being labeled as the “pro-death squad” by Boris Johnson for advocating for a swift easing of lockdown measures.
This afternoon, Mr. Sunak was asked by counsel Hugo Keith KC why the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was implemented without consulting the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
According to Mr Sunak, this is a small policy that was specifically created to address the safe removal of previously approved COVID measures.
Earlier today, Mr. Sunak expressed remorse to grieving families for the government’s handling of the pandemic.
The Prime Minister is the most recent member of the Covid-19 cabinet to be questioned by the inquiry. In the previous week, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended his decisions and criticized the “exaggerated” portrayal of the revelations about the Partygate scandal.
I was unaware that the Treasury was referred to as the pro-death squad.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rishi Sunak was not aware that the Treasury was referred to as the “pro-death squad.”
The prime minister stated that the term is not an accurate description of the dedicated individuals in the department who work tirelessly.
During the pandemic, former chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance shared that Boris Johnson made a joke about the Treasury wanting to ease lockdown restrictions quickly, referring to it as “the pro-death squad.”
In a portion of his diary that was shared with the Covid inquiry, Sir Patrick stated that Mr Johnson concluded by stating that the team should enlist the assistance of the pro-death squad from HMT (Her Majesty’s Treasury).
Sunak stated: “The individuals at the Treasury put in a tremendous amount of effort throughout that entire time.”
‘Eat Out to Help Out’ was a good idea – and the Covid inquiry’s rewriting of history is dangerous
If you happened to have missed it:
According to John Rentoul, the former chancellor prioritized safeguarding both public health and the economy. This is why I commend his efforts to rescue the hospitality industry, as I personally did by supporting a Covid-safe gastropub.
Sunak claims he does not have any WhatsApp messages from the Covid-era due to changing phones multiple times.
Rishi Sunak stated that his WhatsApp conversations from the pandemic period could not be accessed by the UK Covid-19 Inquiry. He explained that he had switched phones several times in the past few years and did not save his messages.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the Prime Minister, who was also the chancellor at the time, stated that he was never instructed to keep records of conversations on the messaging app, even though important discussions about the Government’s actions were conducted through it.
He claimed that he did not use WhatsApp frequently, and any important matters would have been documented officially.
This occurred after the previous occupant of Downing Street, Boris Johnson, also did not give the official investigation any communication from February to June 2020. This time frame was crucial in the initial management of the outbreak.
On Monday, Mr. Sunak was questioned about his ability to access the WhatsApp messages he sent during the crisis.
He responded, “I do not have them anymore. I have switched phones several times in the past few years and the messages did not transfer over.”
“As previously mentioned, I do not frequently use WhatsApp. My main use for it is to communicate with my private office. Any important information discussed during these conversations would have been documented by my civil servants, as is expected.”
The PM expressed regret, but did not apologize to the families.
Aamer Anwar, the lead attorney for the Scottish Covid Bereaved, expressed disappointment on behalf of families who lost a loved one during the pandemic, regarding the evidence provided by the Prime Minister.
According to his statement, Rishi Sunak has completed his testimony for the day. However, many of those who have been affected by Covid-19 are feeling let down as he expressed sympathy but did not apologize to the grieving families.
As chancellor, Rishi Sunak was Boris Johnson’s close ally, but his main allegiance was to the markets.
“Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson were not dependent on hindsight. As Europe witnessed in real time, the pandemic swept through Italy and other parts of Europe before reaching our shores like a tsunami.”
The bereaved individuals do not believe his reasoning regarding WhatsApp messages. Those who have lost loved ones to Covid find it hard to believe that any political figure in the UK would be unable to provide their WhatsApp messages during crucial times of the pandemic.
The grieving individuals are not satisfied with the Prime Minister’s current explanation that his WhatsApp messages are completely inaccessible.
“Rishi Sunak’s individual effort to undermine lockdown measures in order to gain a competitive edge led to the detrimental decision of sacrificing thousands of lives for the sake of the economy. Presently, those who have lost loved ones to Covid do not find solace in his insincere expressions of regret.”
“Sunak’s testimony was the most feeble I’ve witnessed during the Covid inquiry.”
Jean Adamson, who lost her father Aldrich Adamson to Covid-19, spoke after the hearing and expressed disappointment with Sunak’s testimony. She believed it was the weakest she had heard throughout the inquiry and also disapproved of his decision to not share his WhatsApp messages from the pandemic period.
Ms Adamson, who is a member of Covid Bereaved Families for Justice UK, said: “The fact that he’s refused to hand over his WhatsApp messages shows that he’s not interested to learn lessons and save lives, and that he takes us for idiots.
“This morning his testimony has been so far the most pathetic performance that I’ve seen from the very start of this inquiry.
He claims to have a lack of memory when asked about something – “I haven’t come across that email.”
He perceives us as naive and consistently shows disdain towards us. If another outbreak occurred soon, the nation would be left in a disastrous state with a prime minister who is not trusted by the public to handle it effectively.
Grieving families criticize the Prime Minister’s testimony as “pitiful.”
Families who have lost loved ones have expressed disappointment with the Prime Minister’s testimony at the Covid inquiry, calling it “disappointing” and pointing out his failure to remember emails sent during the pandemic.
Several individuals displayed pictures of their deceased family members by wearing them around their necks. When Rishi Sunak exited the hearing, many stood up and held up photographs of their loved ones who lost their lives to the virus.
Many people expressed frustration when Mr Sunak repeatedly claimed he had no memory of certain evidence from his time as chancellor. This included an email from his private secretary expressing concerns that the government’s plan to ease lockdown restrictions was risky.
Important takeaways from Rishi Sunak’s testimony today – section three:
A sincere apology to those who have lost a loved one.
Like Mr Johnson, Mr Sunak also apologized during his opening statement at the inquiry. The Prime Minister expressed his remorse to those who experienced the loss of a loved one or suffered due to the decisions made during the pandemic. He emphasized the importance of reflecting on these lessons to improve our preparedness for future situations.
What occurred during the investigation?
As Mr. Sunak testified, he likely knew that restless Conservative Members of Parliament were closely examining his proposed legislation for Rwanda before a crucial vote. During the inquiry’s intermission, a group of lawyers called upon by rebellious MPs dealt a blow to the Prime Minister by rejecting the Bill, stating that it did not go beyond expectations.
Important takeaways from Rishi Sunak’s testimony today – second part.
– Not recalling things
During questioning, Mr Sunak was pressed about his unclear recollection of a meeting on March 23, 2020 where the choice was made to implement the initial lockdown. He admitted, “I cannot remember that specific meeting,” leading lead counsel Hugo Keith KC to remark, “This was undoubtedly one of the most significant decisions in the history of our country.”
He seemed to have forgotten certain aspects, such as the cautionary advice about the potential dangers of implementing the Eat Out To Help Out program in August 2020, objections expressed by former health secretary Matt Hancock, and specifics about the free school meals policy.
Protecting his previous employer.
Mr. Sunak dismissed claims from previous witnesses that there were issues with the functionality of Mr. Johnson’s No 10 and that he hesitated in implementing Covid restrictions. He stated that he was not made aware of any comments about the administration being “criminally incompetent” or “chaotic” at the time. According to Mr. Sunak, it would have been even worse if there had not been intense discussions surrounding these important choices.
Main takeaways from Rishi Sunak’s testimony today – section one.
On Monday, Rishi Sunak, who acted as the chancellor during the course of the pandemic, attended the UK Covid-19 Inquiry. He was in charge of executing the furlough and Eat Out To Help Out initiatives.
These are the main points mentioned in his testimony:
“Advocating for the continuation of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme”
Mr. Sunak passionately defended his contentious initiative, stating that it was necessary to safeguard workers from the detrimental effects of unemployment.
When questioned about the lack of consultation with the Government’s scientific advisors and health secretary, he explained that it was a small policy within the larger plan for reopening that had already been approved.
He stated that they had plenty of chances to voice their concerns, but chose not to.
– Missing WhatsApps
Mr Sunak confirmed that his pandemic-era messages were not available to Baroness Hallett’s probe because he had changed his phone “multiple times over the last few years” and the messages from the old ones had “not come across”.
He was not encouraged to keep any messages for the investigation, despite Boris Johnson’s announcement of its formation in May 2021. However, he mentioned that he was not an active user of WhatsApp and any important information was already documented officially.
Rishi Sunak stands by the Eat Out to Help Out program despite facing criticism during a Covid inquiry.
The current PM also stated that he repeatedly cautioned his predecessor, Mr. Johnson, about the larger consequences of implementing a lockdown. He attributed the current poor state of the nation’s finances to the economic damage caused by the lockdown.