'I Didn't Lie to Boris': Matt Hancock Gives Evidence to MPs

Peter Russell

June 10, 2021

The 'Indian' Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 now comprises 91% of all new cases in the UK, England's Health Secretary said today.

Matt Hancock/Parliament.uk

Matt Hancock announced his assessment during evidence to a joint parliamentary committee. He said it was based on an assessment he saw on Wednesday evening. It came just days before the Government is due to announce whether existing lockdown restrictions in England will go ahead or be paused. In a wide-ranging grilling by MPs, Mr Hancock also denied claims by the Prime Minister's former special adviser Dominic Cummings that he had lied to Boris Johnson at any point during the pandemic and said he had always operated with "honesty and integrity".

In a rebuke to Mr Cummings, who gave evidence to the Committee last month, during which he said that Mr Hancock deserved to have been sacked, England's Health Secretary said that the Government had "operated better in the past 6 months" since the aide had quit his Downing Street post.

 

Key Responses

During 4 hours of questioning, Mr Hancock said a worst-case scenario at the start of the pandemic had suggested that 820,000 people could die from COVID-19, but that he was not prepared to accept that on "his watch"

Among other evidence presented to the Committee, Mr Hancock said that:

  • Testing asymptomatic hospital patients before discharge into care homes could have provided "false reassurance" that they did not have the virus

  • Throwing a 'protective ring' around care homes had proved to be "very hard"

  • There was hesitancy about imposing lockdown restrictions due to concerns that the public would not tolerate them for long

  • Locking down earlier than March 23, 2020, would have gone against scientific advice

  • The challenge in March on introducing lockdown measures was the most significant decision made by a Prime Minister during peace time "based on incomplete information, and at great pace"

  • Telling Cabinet members that a lockdown was inevitable was "the most extraordinary thing that I've ever said"

  • There was never a national shortage of PPE, because the UK Treasury eventually sanctioned purchasing at the top end of the pricing market

  • His target of 100,000 tests a day, that was derided by evidence from Mr Cummings as “incredibly stupid", was backed by the Prime Minister

  • He "bitterly" regretted not overruling early scientific evidence that there was no asymptomatic transmission of SARS-CoV-2

  • It was apparent to him back in August last year that the UK was heading for a second wave of the COVID pandemic

  • He had "no idea" why Mr Cummings had a dispute with him, but had later become aware that the aide had wanted him fired

The chairman of the Science and Technology Committee, Greg Clark, noted that some specific claims about Mr Hancock made in his evidence on May 26 had yet to be backed up by promised written submissions.

"It's important that if serious allegations are made against an individual, they should be corroborated with evidence, and it must be counted as unproven without it," he said.

This article contains information from PA Media.

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