Matt Hancock brands Dominic Cummings' allegations as 'unsubstantiated and untrue'

26 May 2021, 15:40 | Updated: 27 May 2021, 12:03

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Dominic Cummings' allegations he repeatedly lied are unsubstantiated and untrue.

Speaking to MPs, the Prime Minister's ex-adviser said Mr Hancock should have been fired on multiple occasions during the crisis.

He claimed Mr Hancock repeatedly lied about key aspects of the pandemic, including PPE supplies and the state of the crisis in care homes.

The Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said either Mr Cummings' allegations were true and Mr Hancock had breached the ministerial code, or the Prime Minister brought a "fantasist and a liar into the heart of Downing Street".

Responding on Thursday in the House of Commons, Mr Hancock said: "These allegations that were put yesterday… are serious allegations, and I welcome the opportunity to come to the House to put formally on the record that these unsubstantiated allegations around honesty are not true.

"I've been straight with people in public and in private throughout."

Mr Hancock will later lead a 5pm press conference where he is expected to face further questions about Mr Cummings' claims.

READ MORE: Dominic Cummings: The key quotes from Boris Johnson's ex-adviser

Mr Cummings said of the Health Secretary on Wednesday: "Like in much of the Government system, there were many brilliant people at relatively junior and middle levels who were terribly let down by senior leadership.

"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."

He added: "In mid-April, just before the Prime Minister and I were diagnosed with having Covid ourselves, the Secretary of State for Health told us in the Cabinet room everything is fine with PPE, we've got it all covered, etc, etc.

"When I came back, almost the first meeting I had in the Cabinet room was about the disaster over PPE and how we were actually completely short, hospitals all over the country were running out."

Cummings: Barnard Castle was 'complete disaster' that 'undermined public confidence'

Cummings: Health Secretary Matt Hancock should have been fired for lying

Speaking to MPs on Thursday, as he was grilled about Mr Cummings' allegations, Mr Hancock said: "What we've done to handle this coronavirus pandemic has been unprecedented in modern times.

"Throughout, we have been straight with people and straight with this House about the challenges that we as a nation face together.

"The nation, in my view, has risen to these challenges.

"Of course there were unprecedented difficulties that come with preparation for an unprecedented event."

The 'architect' of Brexit Mr Cummings was also pressed on whether Mr Johnson was concerned about the number of people dying with coronavirus prior to the second lockdown in England.

He was asked: "Did you hear him (Mr Johnson) say 'let the bodies pile high in their thousands' or 'it's only killing 80-year-olds?"

Mr Cummings replied: "There's been a few different versions of these stories knocking around.

"There was a version of it in the Sunday Times which was not accurate, but the version that the BBC reported was accurate."

He was then asked: "And you heard that (Boris Johnson saying those comments)?"

The former adviser responded: "I heard that in the prime minister's study.

"That was not in September, that was immediately after he finally made the decision to do the lockdown on 31 October."

The revelation comes as Mr Cummings was grilled by MPs on the Science and Technology Committee and Health and Social Care Committee on lessons that could be learned from the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cummings: Officials feared PM would try to be injected with Covid on TV to stop 'panic'

The prime minister has previously strongly denied making the alleged comments and ministers lined up to defend him after they came to light.

Elsewhere, Mr Cummings admitted the Barnard Castle saga was a "complete disaster" that "undermined public confidence" in the government's response to the pandemic.

Addressing the infamous Durham trip last spring, the prime minister's former adviser told the committee that it was "a terrible, terrible, terrible mistake" which he is "extremely sorry about".

Mr Cummings also revealed that he and Mr Johnson did not "tell the full story" about his lockdown trip.

He conceded that he understood why people might think it was "weird" for him to test his eyesight by driving to the attraction, adding that he wished he had "never heard of Barnard Castle and never gone".

"I can only apologise for the whole debacle," he told MPs.