New Health Secretary Sajid Javid's top priority: return to normal 'as quickly as possible'

27 June 2021, 11:04 | Updated: 27 June 2021, 11:19

  • Newly appointed Health Secretary says he wants to 'return to normal'
  • Matt Hancock quit yesterday after kiss with top aide was exposed
  • Mr Hancock said: "Those of us who make these rules have got to stick by them'
New Health Secretary Sajid Javid pictured this morning
New Health Secretary Sajid Javid pictured this morning. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

New health secretary Sajid Javid has said his top priority in his new job will be returning the nation to 'normal' after the pandemic "as quickly as possible."

On his first day in his new job after replacing Matt Hancock, who was forced to resign after kissing an aide in breach of Covid-19 guidance, Mr Javid said: "Matt Hancock worked incredibly hard, he achieved a lot and I’m sure he’ll have more to offer in public life.

“I was honoured to take up this position. I also know that it comes with huge responsibility and I will do everything I can to make sure I deliver for the people of this great country.

"We are still in a pandemic and I want to see that come to an end as soon as possible. That will be my most immediate priority, to see that we can return to normal as soon and as quickly as possible.”

Former chancellor and home secretary Mr Javid was appointed to the prominent role just 90 minutes after Downing Street announced Mr Hancock had resigned on Saturday evening.

It came the day after video footage emerged of Mr Hancock kissing an aide in his ministerial office in a breach of coronavirus restrictions.

Images and video showed Mr Hancock in an embrace with aide Gina Coladangelo last month, and Conservative MPs told of how their inboxes had filled with complaints similar to those they received during Dominic Cummings's infamous trip to Barnard Castle during a national lockdown.

READ MORE: 'Gutless PM should have sacked him': MPs' anger after Hancock quits over kiss with aide

READ MORE: David Lammy's merciless reaction to Matt Hancock's resignation

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Hancock said: "The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis."

He said: "We owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done by breaching the guidance.

In a video posted on Twitter, Mr Hancock said: "I understand the enormous sacrifices that everybody in this country has made, you have made. And those of us who make these rules have got to stick by them and that's why I've got to resign."

Mr Javid tweeted: "Honoured to have been asked to serve as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care at this critical time.

"I look forward to contributing to our fight against the pandemic, and serving my country from the Cabinet once again."

Although he has resigned, questions are unlikely to go away for Mr Hancock regarding the employment of university friend Mrs Coladangelo, who was first brought in to the department as an unpaid adviser and then given a £15,000-a-year job as a non-executive director.

Labour has called on all documents related to her employment to be released.

In response to Mr Hancock's resignation, the Prime Minister wrote: "Above all, it has been your task to deal with a challenge greater than that faced by any of your predecessors, and in fighting Covid you have risen to that challenge - with the abundant energy, intelligence, and determination that are your hallmark."

Mr Johnson had stuck by Mr Hancock, refusing to sack him as No 10 said the PM considered the matter closed following an initial apology.

But Conservative MPs began to break ranks to call for Mr Hancock to go.

Veteran Tory Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) said his constituents were "seething".

And Andrew Bridgen, Tory MP for North West Leicestershire, said that a "sizeable minority or even a majority of the public no longer had confidence in Matt Hancock".

Mr Javid takes over the job not only with coronavirus to contend with, but NHS reform, battles over pay, a lack of a plan for social care, the appointment of a new NHS chief executive, and a huge backlog for treatments.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the British Medical Association's chair of council, said: "Sajid Javid has a huge and urgent task ahead.

"He must ensure completing the roll-out of the adult vaccination programme at rapid pace to control spiralling infection rates. He must also put forward a credible plan to tackle a backlog of care of unprecedented scale whilst at the same time rebuilding the trust of doctors and the wider healthcare workforce."

Labour's shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said: "Sajid Javid failed to reverse the previous eight years of social care cuts or deliver the investment our NHS needed in his time as chancellor of the Exchequer.

"He now needs to explain how he will bring down sky-high waiting lists, ensure people get the cancer care they need, get young people vital mental health support and crucially fix social care, which has suffered swingeing cuts under the Conservatives."