Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the “unsubstantiated” attacks on him by Dominic Cummings are “not true”.
Boris Johnson’s former senior adviser accused Mr Hancock of repeatedly lying, saying that he could have been fired for “15, 20 things, including lying”.
Mr Cummings also said the Health Secretary was disastrously incompetent and claimed he should have been fired on multiple occasions during the course of the pandemic.
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Forced to go to the House of Commons to respond to the claims, Mr Hancock said: “These unsubstantiated allegations around honesty are not true.
“I’ve been straight with people in public and in private throughout.”
Mr Cummings’ criticism of the Health Secretary
During a seven-hour evidence session to MPs on Wednesday, Mr Cummings claimed his former boss, the Prime Minister, is “unfit” to lead and his Government’s failures had led to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.
Apart from his damning assessment of Mr Johnson, Mr Cummings saved his fiercest criticism for Mr Hancock over failings around care homes policy, personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement and his public pledge on a testing target which caused disruption in Whitehall.
Mr Cummings told MPs that the Prime Minister had been told “categorically in March that people will be tested before they went back to care homes” from hospital by Mr Hancock – something which did not happen.
It was “complete nonsense” to claim the Government had put a shield around care homes, Mr Cummings claimed.
He said Mr Hancock should have been sacked on 15 to 20 occasions and Whitehall’s top mandarin at the time, Sir Mark Sedwill, had “lost confidence in the Secretary of State’s honesty”.
What Matt Hancock said
Answering an urgent question in the Commons, Mr Hancock said: “Every day since I began working on the response to this pandemic last January, I’ve got up each morning and asked ‘What must I do to protect life?’
“That is the job of the Health Secretary in a pandemic.
“We’ve taken an approach of openness, transparency and explanation of both what we know and of what we don’t know.”
Mr Cummings accused the Health Secretary of making a “stupid” public pledge to increase testing to 100,000 by the end of April 2020, claiming he then interfered with the building of the Test and Trace system to maximise his chances of hitting his target.
“It was criminal, disgraceful behaviour that caused serious harm,” Mr Cummings claimed.
But in the Commons, Mr Hancock defended his approach and said: “Setting and meeting ambitious targets is how you get stuff done in Government.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the allegations made by Mr Cummings are either true – in which case Mr Hancock “potentially stands in breach of the ministerial code” and the principles of standards in public life – or they are false “and the Prime Minister brought a fantasist and a liar into the heart of Downing Street”.
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