Matt Hancock will face MPs on Thursday over allegations made by former senior No 10 aide Dominic Cummings that he lied to colleagues and performed “disastrously” during the Covid pandemic.
The Health Secretary told the PA news agency on Wednesday (26 May) night he had not seen Mr Cummings’ seven-hour evidence to MPs as he was “saving lives” by dealing with the vaccination rollout.
He will answer a Commons urgent question and is due to lead a Government press conference, the day after a scathing attack by Mr Cummings who argued the Cabinet minister should have been sacked on 15 to 20 occasions.
‘We absolutely reject’ the criticisms
The former de facto Downing Street chief of staff, who apologised for his own shortcomings, also claimed the Prime Minister was “unfit” for the job and that “tens of thousands of people died who didn’t need to die” because of the Government’s failings.
As he arrived at his north London home on Wednesday evening, Mr Hancock said: “I haven’t seen this performance today in full, and instead I’ve been dealing with getting the vaccination rollout going, especially to over-30s, and saving lives.
“I’ll be giving a statement to the House of Commons tomorrow and I’ll have more to say then.”
MPs will question Mr Hancock on the claims, which included that the Health Secretary indulged in “criminal, disgraceful behaviour” in producing a target of carrying out 100,000 tests per day for coronavirus in April 2020.
A spokesman for Mr Hancock said “we absolutely reject” the criticisms made by Mr Cummings.
Mr Cummings accused Mr Hancock of performing “disastrously” below the standards expected and that the cabinet secretary – the country’s top civil servant – recommended the Health Secretary should be sacked.
The Vote Leave strategist said he too recommended, sometimes on a daily basis, that Mr Johnson sack the Health Secretary but the Conservative Party leader was warned off the idea because “he’s the person you fire when the inquiry comes along”.
“I think the Secretary of State for Health should’ve been fired for at least 15, 20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions in meeting after meeting in the Cabinet room and publicly,” Mr Cummings told MPs.
Downing Street said on Wednesday Mr Hancock continued to have the confidence of the Prime Minister and the pair were “working closely” to save lives.
Boris Johnson, meanwhile, is likely to face questions of his own about the explosive evidence from his once-closest aide when he visits a hospital on Thursday.
As well as being branded unfit for office, it was alleged Mr Johnson dismissed the pandemic as a “scare story” or the new “swine flu” in early 2020 as the global crisis loomed and wanted to be injected with Covid-19 on television in a bid to calm the nation.
The riposte is unlikely to prevent the Government from facing an onslaught of queries about Mr Cummings’ evidence.
Mr Cummings, who was ousted from No 10 late last year as part of a behind-the-scenes power struggle, said that, by the end of October 2020, his relationship with Mr Johnson had deteriorated due to the Prime Minister’s delays to ordering an autumn lockdown that could have prevented deaths.
He said that he “fundamentally regarded him as unfit for the job” and that he was attempting to make changes to the “structure around him to try and stop what I thought were extremely bad decisions”.