Former health secretary Matt Hancock to face grilling over pandemic handling as he appears before Covid inquiry

30 November 2023, 08:50

Families of those who lost loved ones during Covid have previously held Mr Hancock “directly responsible for the disproportionate loss of life”
Families of those who lost loved ones during Covid have previously held Mr Hancock “directly responsible for the disproportionate loss of life”. Picture: Alamy

By Sam Rucker

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock will appear as a key witness at today’s Covid inquiry where his decisions during the pandemic will be heavily scrutinised.

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Mr Hancock is scheduled to appear at 10am on Thursday, giving evidence after a series of damaging accusations were levelled at him by other witnesses, including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Chief Adviser Dominic Cummings – who accused Mr Hancock of lying “his way through” the pandemic.

The former health secretary was responsible for the NHS, vaccine programme and key guidelines like social distancing during the Covid-19 outbreak.

He follows a string of other high-profile witnesses at the inquiry including Mr Cummings, Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove and Former NHS CEO Lord Stevens.

Read more: Boris Johnson was told to sack Matt Hancock to 'save lives and protect the NHS', Covid Inquiry hears

In his testimony, Lord Stevens claimed Mr Hancock “took the position” he, rather than the public or medical professionals, “should ultimately decide who should live and who should die”.

Speaking about the MP for West Suffolk in 2020, Mr Cummings had previously messaged Mr Johnson, saying: "You need to think through timing of binning Hancock. There's no way the guy can stay.

“He's lied his way through this and killed people and dozens and dozens of people have seen it… He’s a proven liar.

Read more: Matt Hancock 'thought he should decide who lives or dies, not doctors if NHS was overwhelmed during the pandemic'

Families of those who lost loved ones during Covid have held Mr Hancock “directly responsible for the disproportionate loss of life”.

Mr Gove, on the other hand, told the inquiry earlier this week he had a “high opinion of Matt Hancock”.

He said: “We should collectively have recognised that this was a health system crisis at an earlier point and taken on to other parts of government the responsibility for delivery that was being asked of DHSC [department for health and social care] at the time.”

"Too much was asked" of Mr Hancock, claimed Mr Gove.

Mr Hancock was forced to resign as Health Secretary in 2021 after he was caught breaking social distancing rules he helped set.

The then-health secretary was photographed kissing and embracing his colleague Gina Coladangelo, despite both being married and in breach of Covid rules.

The MP was later stripped of the Tory whip following his decision to appear on reality TV show I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!

Mr Hancock and Ms Coladangelo have remained as a couple since being captured on camera kissing.
Mr Hancock and Ms Coladangelo have remained as a couple since being captured on camera kissing. Picture: Alamy

During Thurday’s inquiry, Mr Hancock is likely to face questions around whether he was consulted about Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme after leaked Whatsapp messages showed the MP calling the now-Prime Minister’s idea “the eat out to help the virus get about”.

He will probably also be asked about the Tier restrictions imposed on UK cities during the Covid outbreak.

Manchester mayor Andy Burnham told the inquiry on Wednesday that Mr Hancock “knew it [the Tier system] didn’t work”.

Mr Hancock’s spokesperson has previously said he "supported the inquiry throughout and will respond to all questions when he gives his evidence".

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