Dr Rosena Allin-Khan tells James O'Brien her reaction to Matt Hancock criticising her 'tone'

6 May 2020, 14:39 | Updated: 6 May 2020, 19:01

By Fiona Jones

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan pledged to James O'Brien she will continue scrutinising Matt Hancock after the Health Secretary told her to "watch her tone" when she questioned him on behalf of frontline workers in the Commons.

Dr Allin-Khan shared her take on the exchange: "I think he reacted strangely because he didn't like the content of the question that I was trying to get out.

"I think it's the sign of somebody who is wrestling with the content of what they've just heard, understanding that actually what has said they actually believe to be true, and how do they wrestle with that.

I'm not looking for an apology, I've had a phenomenal response publicly...but if he does want to make it up to me, he can give NHS and care staff a pay rise."

While the focus of this exchange has been how the Health Secretary replied, James asked Dr Allin-Khan what the content of her question had been.

"I've been working on the frontline along so many incredible people who have been longer and harder than I have. On some of our shifts we've had to break the most awful news to families and watch their world ripped apart as we tell them that those they love the most have died or are dying and it is crippling."

She went on to question why there was "no testing strategy", why "we were too slow to roll out mass testing" and asked the Health Secretary "whether he would commit to 100,000 tests each day going forward because we do know the numbers have been manipulated."

The Labour MP was referring to the Matt Hancock's pledge of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April - it emerged that a third of these were test packages sent out for delivery that had not yet been carried out.

James said there are three strands of conversation; why didn't the government do the testing, they claimed that they were following the science to start with... the same people are now claiming that they didn't have the kit.

"In normal circumstances that would be the mother of all alarm bells, but in these curious circumstances, and perhaps because they reach for comments like 'the Honourable Lady should watch her tone, be more like her male colleague', not something I think he would have said to a male MP... how do you keep an eye on the truth?"

The Labour MP stressed that she has been scrutinising the government's response to the pandemic during PMQs since the beginning of the outbreak.

Dr Allin-Khan also observed that Britain was not following the same isolation practices as the rest of the world with a measure that a symptomatic person could leave the house after one week instead of two.

"I was saying where is the evidence? Be transparent... of course I want the government to succeed, of course I will say when things have gone well, but everybody wants answers, everybody wants transparency," she said.

"Yesterday when I asked that question, though I'm a politician, and though I'm in the Shadow Cabinet, I was asking that as an NHS frontline worker who knows what it's like to go home in tears because you've just watched people fall apart in front of you and you think to yourself, could this have been avoided?"

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