The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has been at the forefront of governmental advice over the course of the pandemic but some members of the organisation expressed concern over the power of the group. An independent inquiry is expected to take place in order to investigate the agency’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in England, according to government sources.
Currently, there is no system in place to challenge the advice given by SAGE, meaning accountability for the advisory group is low.
According to a report by The Telegraph, SAGE members admitted that the group “holds too much sway” over ministerial thinking.
The downside to this power is that other valid views and strategies may not have been given equal weight.
The Telegraph also stated that government insiders “bowed to” SAGE too often.
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said that SAGE’s role would be kept “under review” during the pandemic.
The purpose of the group is to provide “coherent, coordinated advice and to interpret complex or uncertain scientific evidence in non-technical language,” to ministers.
The group changes members according to the nature of the emergency with names only being made public because according to The Telegraph, “the exceptional nature of Covid warranted greater transparency.”
Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief scientific adviser, and Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, report directly to the government Cabinet Office and have the power to decide who can attend meetings.
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The advisory group was set up under the last Labour government and has advised the government on several emergency events over the last decade.