Thursday , May 28 2020
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Ministers are accountable but advisers are not

Summary:
The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty and his deputy Dr Jenny Harries have both appeared at Downing Street press briefings, saying that we should expect to be shut up for another 12 or 18 months.That’s potentially very damaging. It must surely convince any business, struggling to survive its loss of customers and income, that they might as well give up now. That might well convince their suppliers to do the same. The result is more people out of work, with all the uncertainty and misery that causes. The medical experts are advisers. It is not their job to make policy announcements at a Downing Street press conference. But that is what the 12-18-month prediction amounts to. Advisers advise, but ministers decide—and they should decide this sort of issue on the basis of advice

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The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty and his deputy Dr Jenny Harries have both appeared at Downing Street press briefings, saying that we should expect to be shut up for another 12 or 18 months.

That’s potentially very damaging. It must surely convince any business, struggling to survive its loss of customers and income, that they might as well give up now. That might well convince their suppliers to do the same. The result is more people out of work, with all the uncertainty and misery that causes. 

The medical experts are advisers. It is not their job to make policy announcements at a Downing Street press conference. But that is what the 12-18-month prediction amounts to. 

Advisers advise, but ministers decide—and they should decide this sort of issue on the basis of advice from a range of experts who have expertise on the subject. Like psychologists and social scientists who can identify the damage that a lockdown does to individuals, families and children. Or economists who understand the escalating damage being done to business, employment, and wealth creation. And businesspeople who could explain how firms might re-open yet still trade safely.

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Dr. Eamonn Butler
Eamonn Butler is Director of the Adam Smith Institute, rated one of the world’s leading policy think-tanks. He has degrees in economics, philosophy and psychology, gaining a PhD from the University of St Andrews in 1978.

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