THE UK Government scrapped its “anti-pandemic” committee when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, it has emerged.

The team, which included Michael Gove, Matt Hancock and Gavin Williamson, was disbanded six months before the current Covid-19 crisis hit the UK, an investigation by the Daily Mail found.

The Threats, Hazards, Resilience and Contingency Committee (THRCC) was designed to ensure the UK was prepared for a pandemic – but it was mothballed by former Tory leader Theresa May so the Government could focus on Brexit efforts.

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When Johnson was elected Tory leader in July the team was abolished completely as he sought to streamline Whitehall.

A former Cabinet minister who was on the team said last night that the committee could have helped the UK react more quickly to the crisis, saying: “Once the pandemic took hold in Italy … alarm bells would have been ringing.

“We would have stress-tested the Government’s contingency plans for dealing with a pandemic.”

The revelation is embarrassing for the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace who in 2018 was the security minister behind a report insisting the committee had a vital role in pandemic planning.

His strategy said an influenza pandemic was “one of the most significant civil emergency risks facing the UK”. It added: “Such an outbreak could have the potential to cause hundreds of thousands of fatalities and cost the UK tens of billons of pounds.”

The team was a sub-committee of the National Security Council, chaired by Johnson. Fifteen Cabinet ministers sat on the THRCC.

According to a former minister fears of a No-Deal Brexit led Sir Mark Sedwill, the head of the civil service, to recommend the committee be wound down in 2018.

Labour’s former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett, who chairs the National Security Council Committee, said there would be an investigation into the axing of the THRCC.

Number 10 and Wallace would not comment on the story.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The Government has taken the right steps at the right time to combat this pandemic. We regularly test our pandemic plans.”