Dido Harding fails to provide evidence for her ‘no-one predicted September surge’ claim

She has not responded to the committee's request for information despite a "generous deadline".

The chair of the cross-party science committee has told the government’s under-fire track and trace tsar that he is “dissapointed” in her failure to provide the committee with information.

Tory MP Greg Clark said government appointee Dido Harding failed to provide the committee with information she had promised to when she appeared before it committee on September 17.

In a letter to Harding, Clark said she had failed to respond by his “generous deadline” of October 6 and gave hear new deadline of October 12.

He said: “As you will appreciate, there continue to be serious concerns relating to test and trace…I would therefore be grateful if you could respond urgently to my previous letter so that we have the information we need to offer constructive suggestions for improvement.”

The information Clark had asked for was:

  • The advice given by SAGE on the likely demand for testing in September. Harding had told Clark: “I don’t think anybody was expecting to see the really sizeable increase in demand that we’ve seen over the course of the last few weeks.”
  • The advice on which the testing target of 500,000 tests a day by the end of October was based.
  • The respective proportions of total tests given to healthcare workers, patients and care home residents, members of the public in ‘hotspot’ areas and the public at large.
  • How testing capacity is allocated across regions
  • The extent to which capacity has been transferred from London to other regions with more cases.
  • The structure of scientific advice within the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) and National Institute for Health Protection and the names of the advisers and minutes of their meetings. The JBC is led by a friend of Boris Johnson with a background in the security services and NIHP is the replacement to Public Health England and will be controversially led by Harding herself.
  • Details of the government’s review of commercial testing providers.

Clark also asked for further information about how the government lost testing data because their Excel spreadsheet ran out of rows. This scandal took place after Harding’s committee appearance.

Dido Harding is a former telecoms executive and Tory peer who is married to Tory MP John Penrose. She was put in charge of the testing regime by Boris Johnson despite having very limited health experience.

The GMB union has called on her to resign, calling her a “crony” of Boris Johnson and accusing her of having a “terrible track record”.

Joe Lo is a co-editor of Left Foot Forward

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