Vaccines minister says Matt Hancock was not 'economical with the truth' on PPE

11 June 2021, 09:52 | Updated: 11 June 2021, 09:57

Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was not 'economical with the truth' over Covid testing and personal protective equipment (PPE), the vaccines minister told LBC this morning.

Nadhim Zahawi told Nick Ferrari that Mr Hancock had shared "all the information that is available to him" when he was grilled by MPs yesterday.

It comes as Mr Hancock faces accusations of “trying to rewrite history” after telling a parliamentary inquiry into the Covid-19 response that there was never a national shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Mr Hancock was accused by former Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings of repeatedly lying about the supply of protective equipment but denied the allegations at the Health and Social Care Committee.

"It is an imperfect world that we live in," Mr Zahawi said, "we entered this pandemic with some massive challenges."

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Asked about Mr Hancock's assertion that no NHS workers had died as a result of PPE shortages, Mr Zahawi continued: "If you look at the National Audit Office report when they look at the national system, and they did their own survey of the national system, there was not a national shortage."

But the minister said he did not want to "disregard" what the body said about the experience of NHS staff, who he said "may have faced certain challenges and shortages".

Nadhim Zahawi has defended Matt Hancock after Thursday's committee session
Nadhim Zahawi has defended Matt Hancock after Thursday's committee session. Picture: PA Images

It follows over four hours of questioning at the Health and Social Care Committee, where Mr Hancock struck back at Mr Cummings' accusations of lying, failing on care homes and "criminal, disgraceful behaviour" on testing.

But a senior MP chairing the committee said the claims would remain unproven because he has failed to provide supporting evidence.

Mr Hancock said he has "no idea" why he was targeted by the former aide but was aware he wanted him sacked, suggesting the aide briefed his desires to newspapers.

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"I think the best thing to say about this, and this will be corroborated by lots of people in Government, the best thing to say, is that Government has operated better in the past six months," the minister said.

On testing, Mr Zahawi said: "When we entered this pandemic, we could only do 2,000 tests a day but over the last seven days we did over six million tests in the United Kingdom.

"We will learn the lessons there of course - there's going to be a public inquiry which will look at all the evidence and we will report to all the select committees as well."