Jacob Rees-Mogg has apologised for likening a neurologist who warned about no-deal Brexit-related deaths to Dr Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced doctor who linked the MMR vaccine to autism in the 1990s.
Mr Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons, was subject to widespread criticism for comparing Dr David Nicholl, a consultant neurologist to Dr Wakefield.
The BMA has condemned Mr Rees-Mogg, saying his latest insult was ’utterly disgraceful’ and ‘totally irresponsible’.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Rees-Mogg said: ‘I am afraid it seems to me that Dr David Nicholl is as irresponsible as Dr Wakefield. I will repeat: as irresponsible as Dr Wakefield, in threatening that people will die because we leave the European Union.’
Dr Nicholl wrote the medical section of the Government’s Operation Yellowhammer document, outlining the potential consequences of a no-deal Brexit.
The Conservative MP’s comments are protected by parliamentary privilege, but Dr Nicholl threatened to sue Mr Rees-Mogg if he repeated his comments outside Parliament,
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ’Jacob Rees-Mogg’s latest insult about Dr David Nicholl is utterly disgraceful and totally irresponsible.
’Highly experienced doctors like David Nicholl who decide to speak out about risks to life and patient care, should be supported and listened to, not attacked and derided by those who hold positions of responsibility.
’This unwarranted attack is particularly galling as Mr Rees-Mogg belongs to the same government that called upon Dr Nicholl’s expertise to help draft medical opinion for Operation Yellowhammer and who also wrote the mitigations for the event of a no-deal.’
The comparison to Dr Wakefield was also criticised by England’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies, who wrote a letter to him saying: ‘I feel compelled to express my sincere disappointment in the disrespectful way you spoke to and about Dr David Nicholl.’
She added that comparing an established medical expert to a doctor who was struck off the register is ‘going too far’ and ‘frankly unacceptable’.
In a statement, Mr Rees-Mogg apologised and said he has the ‘utmost respect’ for medical professionals around the country.
He said: ‘I apologise to Dr Nicholl for the comparison with Dr Wakefield.
‘I have the utmost respect for all of the country’s hardworking medical professionals and the work they do in caring for the people of this country.
‘The government is working closely with the NHS, industry and distributors to help ensure the supply of medicine and medical products remains uninterrupted once we leave the EU on 31 October, whatever the circumstances.’
Health secretary Matt Hancock added that his job is to ‘stick up for doctors’ and he was ‘glad’ Mr Rees-Mogg apologised.
One of my jobs as Health Secretary is to stick up for doctors. It’s vital clinicians can provide expert advice. I defend to the hilt the right of clinicians and civil servants to provide advice without fear or favour. I’m glad Jacob has apologisedhttps://t.co/f47dVYJGLi
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) September 5, 2019