Matt Hancock faces Covid inquiry grilling as grieving families confront former Health Secretary outside

27 June 2023, 10:08 | Updated: 27 June 2023, 10:11

Matt Hancock arrived at the inquiry today
Matt Hancock arrived at the inquiry today. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Bereaved relatives of people who died of Covid-19 confronted Matt Hancock as the former health secretary arrived to face questions.

Members of the Covid Bereaved Families for Justice stood at the steps of the inquiry at Dorland House in London as Mr Hancock made a quick arrival into the main entrance before being sworn in.

On the opening day of the inquiry, a written submission from Mr Hancock said: “In coming into the post as health secretary, I was advised that the UK was a world leader in preparations for the pandemic," it said.

"Whilst this may have been a heartfelt belief, it did not turn out to be the case when faced with what became known as Covid-19.”

Matt Hancock giving evidence to the inquiry
Matt Hancock giving evidence to the inquiry. Picture: UK Covid Inquiry

The families accused Mr Hanaock of failing to protect their loved ones.

Mr Hancock will become the latest high-profile politician to appear before the Covid-19 Inquiry, as hearings continue into Government preparedness for the pandemic.

The former health secretary, who became one of the best-known politicians in the country as he helped steer the coronavirus response before being forced to quit in June 2021, will give evidence to Lady Hallett's inquiry on Tuesday morning.

His attendance at the inquiry comes after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, another former health secretary, admitted that a "groupthink" helped lead to a "narrowness of thinking" that failed to expand pandemic preparedness beyond planning for a flu outbreak.

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Members of COVID Bereaved Families for Justice hold up pictures of their loved ones as former Minister for Health Matt Hancock arrives to give evidence at the COVID Inquiry
Members of COVID Bereaved Families for Justice hold up pictures of their loved ones as former Minister for Health Matt Hancock arrives to give evidence at the COVID Inquiry. Picture: Alamy

On Monday, former deputy chief medical officer Dame Jenny Harries was quizzed on the capacity of the UK health system as well as the organisational reforms before the Covid outbreak.

Mr Hancock, also known for his appearance last year on TV's I'm A Celebrity, became health secretary in mid-2018 - but his political career was torpedoed after footage emerged in 2021 of his embrace with aide Gina Coladangelo.

He was central to the Government's pandemic era decision-making and messaging, with his own recollections of the period likely to be a crucial part of the inquiry.

A leak of more than a 100,000 of his WhatsApp messages by journalist Isabel Oakeshott to the Daily Telegraph, many of which were published earlier this year, provided a glimpse into the inner workings of Government during the period.

The West Suffolk MP, who will stand down at the next general election, has faced questions in the past about the Government policy on Covid testing and nursing homes.

Former prime minister David Cameron, former chancellor George Osborne and chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty are all among those who have appeared before the committee so far.