Dominic Cummings urged Boris Johnson to remove the Sage committee amid concerns over an alleged culture of lobbying and leakage from pro-lockdown advisers.
The prime minister was urged to take action against the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies over concerns some of the experts were using to publicly advocate for stricter restrictions.
Some Whitehall figures also believe members of the group were responsible for leaking proposals to the media to pressure ministers to support tougher measures.
A source told the Mail things came to a head last year when Mr Cummings suggested getting rid of the body completely.
The former chief adviser to the prime minister is said to have become frustrated that committee members were able to speak publicly “in their personal capacity” on sensitive issues on which they also privately advised the government.
Dominic Cummings (pictured), the former chief adviser to the Prime Minister is said to have become frustrated that committee members were able to speak publicly ‘in their personal capacity’ on sensitive issues on which they also privately advised the government [File photo]
“Dom got to the point where he’s had enough of Sage,” the source said. “ Whenever we had an important decision to make, members would appear in the media to promote their own agendas. He wanted to scrap everything.
The advice was rejected by the Prime Minister, who again relies heavily on advice from Sage experts as he develops his “ roadmap ” out of lockdown. But the activities of some prominent members of the committee continued to irritate some Conservative MPs.
Sage’s meetings have a changing composition drawn from a panel of around 90 scientists and medical experts.
Controversial epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson has been retained as an adviser to Sage despite being forced to apologize for breaking lockdown rules [File photo]
Dozens more sit on subgroups, including controversial epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson, who has been retained as an adviser despite being forced to apologize for breaking lockdown rules .
Sources say differences of opinion within the group are often sharp. Over the past fortnight, several Sage advisers have urged the prime minister to take an ultra-cautious approach in media interviews in which they speak “in their personal capacity”.
Last week, Sir Jeremy Farrar, who is director of the Wellcome Trust, warned that the number of Covid-19 infections in the UK must be below 10,000 before the restrictions were lifted. In a separate intervention, Professor Ferguson suggested it could take a year to return to normal, and a third counselor, Dr Mike Tildesley, questioned whether it was safe to relax the exercise rules in at the same time as the reopening of schools.
Advice to scrapping Sage has been rejected by Johnson, who again relies heavily on advice from experts in the group as he develops his “ roadmap ” out of lockdown. Pictured: Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty (left) and Chief Science Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance arrive at Portcullis House in Westminster to speak at the Commons Home Affairs Committee in December [File photo]
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘The government has been intimidated by some of these publicity-seeking scientists who ignore the impact their ideas have on the economy and education and many other things. They must be mastered.
There was controversy last April after it emerged that Mr Cummings had attended a number of committee meetings, including before the first lockdown. Critics questioned whether his presence could have an impact on the group’s independence, but supporters said it was important for senior government officials to hear their talks.
Mr Cummings left No 10 in November after arguments in Downing Street over who should be Mr Johnson’s chief of staff.
The senior aide, who was instrumental in winning the Vote Leave campaign in the EU referendum, was called upon to resign earlier in the year for breaking the lockdown rules.