Former Tory minister Liam Fox has come under fire after rubbishing claims that Tory austerity has severely impacted pandemic preparedness, including supplies of personal protection equipment for health workers against COVID-19.
During an interview with Sky News on Monday, Fox – a former defence minister and international trade secretary under David Cameron and Theresa May respectively – insisted that the “austerity point is meaningless” and blamed the shortages of vital coronavirus equipment on global deficiencies.
"This austerity point is meaningless."
Dr Liam Fox MP, says it is "nonsense" that austerity played a part in a lack of PPE stockpiling.
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) April 20, 2020
The Tory backbencher also appeared to try and shift blame for the lack of vital supplies for frontline healthcare staff away from the UK government and onto National Health Service (NHS) officials, saying British MPs will want to question the “bureaucracy” and “management” within the healthcare system.
"The level of debate needs to be improved"@LiamFox tells @skynewsniall he'd like to see more detailed information given out about what types of PPE is missing and says questions will also be asked of the NHS. RH#KayBurley pic.twitter.com/gV97Qgqpua
— Kay Burley (@KayBurley) April 20, 2020
Fox’s insistence that nearly ten years of austerity has had no impact comes less than a week after the government’s former chief scientific adviser, Professor Sir David King, claimed the damaging cuts had left the UK “unprepared” for the coronavirus outbreak.
The North Somerset MP’s refusal to acknowledge austerity may have played a significant part in health workers being denied sufficient COVID-19 protection left many fuming on social media.
Former Labour MP Pat Glass took to Twitter to say that ten years of Tory cuts had led to the UK “being poorly prepared and staffed for a pandemic.” While others online sarcastically asked: “So, it was a choice to under-equip the NHS?”
Fox’s apparent shift of blame to the public healthcare sector in terms of the “mishandling” of the coronavirus crisis was branded “disgraceful,” with some suggesting the government’s strategy has been based on resources and not science.
The Tory’s trying to shift blame for their mishandling of this whole situation is disgraceful. They were given the modelling in January, they had 2 months to prepare.
— Emma Andrews 🇪🇺#RejoinEU 🕊🌍🌳🕷🐘🐮🦊🌿48% (@happyhippy2015) April 20, 2020
UK government claim: policy is based on the science
PPE reality: policy is not based on the science, it is based on resources
— Farrukh (@implausibleblog) April 20, 2020
Fox is no stranger to controversy. In 2011 he was forced to resign from his defence post after breaking the ministerial code by allowing his friend Adam Werritty into official departmental meetings. In July 2019, he lost his ministerial position as international trade secretary following new Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle.