Hancock defends appointment of Tory peer as chair of new public health agency

19 August 2020, 09:02

The Health Secretary has defended the appointment of the Tory peer
The Health Secretary has defended the appointment of the Tory peer. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended appointing Baroness Harding as interim executive chair of the National Institute for Health Protection.

The Health Secretary launched the new National Institute for Health Protection, a new body which will respond to health threats including infectious diseases, pandemics and biologic weapons on Tuesday.

The new organisation, headed up by Tory peer Dido Harding, will begin work immediately but will become formally operational next spring to reduce disruption during the pandemic, it was announced.

It will merge the Covid response work of PHE, NHS Test and Trace and Joint Biosecurity Centre in the "first step towards becoming a single organisation", the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

Nick Ferrari asks Matt Hancock why Dido Harding is in charge of new health body

Mr Hancock told LBC: "Anybody with enormous experience like Baroness Harding will have had to face challenges in their professional career.

"I think having somebody with enormous experience, both running very large organisations in the private sector and as the chair of the board of NHS Improvement last three-and-a-half years, she has what it takes to lead this organisation, to get it set up.

"The key thing now is to make sure that there is a seamless impact on the coronavirus response, actually that that is strengthened, and I think her leadership will be an important part in that."

He added: "Ultimately it is ministers who are responsible for all decisions that governments make. That's why I come on the radio to talk to you and answer questions, and am accountable in Parliament.

"The whole media discussion around this about 'who is responsible?' I think is frustrating because frankly I am responsible for what happens in the health and social care areas. Of course I am."