Desmond Swayne – 2020 Speech on Covid-19

Below is the text of the speech made by Desmond Swayne, the Conservative MP for New Forest West, in the House of Commons on 11 May 2020.

I do not set out to be a discordant voice, and I have at least some agreement with my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Jeremy Hunt), but we are always told that the Government’s policy is a consequence of the best scientific advice. Well, the one thing the Government are certainly not short of—the one commodity not in short supply—is scientific advice. The question is: which are the siren voices? Which is the duff advice, and which is the best advice? I am not qualified to judge. I want an answer to a specific question: to what extent is the lockdown and this cautious plan for the lifting of it a consequence of advice from Professor Neil Ferguson and his modelling at Imperial College London? He has recently released the code for his modelling to very significant peer criticism. Again, I am not qualified to judge its robustness. What I can say as a layman, however, is that he has form. In the past, he has predicted the most blood-curdling of death tolls, which never materialised.

There is no question but that the lockdown has inflicted significant additional damage to that which the pandemic has done to our economy. It will be costly and lasting. Whether it was done on the best advice, there is no question but that it was done for the best of motives—the motive of saving life—but the diminution of economic activity and employment itself takes a very heavy toll on life.