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'Appalling': Hancock considered blocking funds for disabled children's centre to convince MP to vote for restrictions
7 March 2023, 07:53
Matt Hancock discussed blocking money for a disabled children's centre to pressure a Tory MP into supporting a new system of Covid restrictions.
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Leaked WhatsApp conversations show the former health secretary and an aide talking about withholding cash for a new learning disability hub in Bury.
The adviser suggested that if James Daly, who represents Bury North, did not back the Government's new tiered restrictions for England in a vote in December 2020 then the funding could be taken "off the table".
In messages leaked to The Telegraph, Allan Nixon, a special adviser a the Department of Health, told Mr Hancock on November 22 2020: "I think we need to dangle our top asks over some of these 2019 intake MPs who are going off the boil this coming week.
"Thoughts on me suggesting to Chief's spads that they give us a list of the 2019 intakes thinking of rebelling. Eg James wants his Learning Disability Hub in Bury - whips call him up and say Health team want to work with him to deliver this but that'll be off the table if he rebels.
"These guys' re-election hinges on us in a lot of instances, and we know what they want. We should seriously consider using it IMO."
"Yes 100%," Mr Hancock replies.
Mr Daly, who said he was never threatened over the funding, said he was "appalled" such a consideration was made to strong-arm him in favour of lockdown.
His colleague in the North West, Jake Berry, who represents Rossendale and Darwen, said Mr Hancock should be "dragged to the bar of the House of Commons" to explain the messages.
On December 1 2020, Mr Hancock told Mr Nixon: "James Daly is with us."
Mr Nixon replied: "If extra hospitality support is forthcoming."
Reacting to the leak, Mr Daly said: "They were never proposing to give it to me. I still don't have it.
"Even though I have repeatedly campaigned for it, Hancock never showed the slightest bit of interest in supporting it. I had a number of conversations with Hancock at that time, but I can definitively say the hub was never mentioned.
"I think it is appalling. The fact that they would only give a much needed support for disabled people if I voted for this was absolutely disgusting."
They are among the latest batch of damning messages to emerge from the leak to The Telegraph.
Among other revelations, recent messages show how Mr Hancock jockeyed to be front-and-centre of the vaccine rollout, insisting its rapid deployment should be seen as a "Hancock triumph".
He also suggested offering French Covid patients spots in UK hospitals – as Britain was already fearing it would struggle for capacity in the face of a surge in coronavirus infections.