Jacob Rees-Mogg has been slapped down by Britain’s most senior doctor, after he compared an author of a key Brexit report to infamous anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Andrew Wakefield.
Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said the Commons leader had been “disrespectful” when he told MPs Dr David Nicholl was “as irresponsible as Dr (Andrew) Wakefield”.
Dr Nicholl had contributed to the Operation Yellowhammer document, which advised the Government on the worst case no-deal Brexit scenario.
But Mr Rees-Mogg called Dr Nicholl “shameful” for raising concerns about the supply of medicines in a testy exchange.
Mr Rees-Mogg told MPs: “Preparations are in place and they are being done with remarkable efficiency. But yes, a lot of Remainers wish to make our skins crawl.
“What he had to say, I will repeat it, is as irresponsible as Dr Wakefield in threatening that people will die because we leave the European Union. What level of irresponsibility was that?
“And I’m afraid it seems to me that Dr David Nicoll is as irresponsible as Dr Wakefield.”
Andrew Wakefield was the author of a discredited paper linking autism to the MMR jab which sparked widespread panic among parents – many of whom refused to give their children the injection which has led to the increase in the dangerous diseases.
He was struck off the medical register in the UK but has become a leading conspiracy theorist in the US and influential worldwide.
Number 10 slapped Mr Rees-Mogg down for his comments, with a spokesman saying: “The Prime Minister does not share this view.”
And Dame Sally Davies, the Government’s chief medical advisor, and England’s Chief Medical Officer has now written to Mr Rees-Mogg to express her “sincere disappointment” over the “disrespectful way” he has spoken to and about Dr Nicholl.
She wrote: “Dr Nicholl made a time-bound contribution to the preparations for leaving the European Union, for which I thank him.
“Comparing an established medical expert to a man who was struck off the medical register by the General Medical Council, and described by them as “dishonest, irresponsible and showed callous disregard for the distress and pain of children” is going to far and is frankly unacceptable.
“The fraudulent and incorrect measles campaign launched by this individual resulted in the re-emergence of measles in this country.”
Dame Sally accepted the Government and medical professionals had worked hard to avoid medicine shortages in case of a no-deal Brexit.
But she added: “Questions regarding the ramifications of a disrupted distribution and consequent risk to life are, however, legitimate. Political leaders should be prepared to answer these questions with respect.
“Doctors are amongst the most trusted people in our country. It is always worth listening to what they have to say with respect.”
Mr Rees-Mogg has refused to apologise for his comments.
Speaking in the House of Commons he said: “No, I’ll reiterate it. Because I think this doctor’s behaviour was disgraceful.
“And to scaremonger and to say people are going to die because of Brexit is thoroughly irresponsible and unbefitting to his role.”
Dr Nicholl has challenged Mr Rees-Mogg to repeat his comments outside of the legal safety of the Commons chamber, and has threatened to take legal action if he does.