Matt Hancock tells MPs: 'I have no idea why Cummings has a problem with me'

10 June 2021, 13:56

Matt Hancock hit back at Dominic Cummings
Matt Hancock hit back at Dominic Cummings. Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

Matt Hancock has "no idea" why Dominic Cummings does not like him, despite the Prime Minister's former aide delivering withering criticism of the Health Secretary.

Speaking to the same committee of MPs that Boris Johnson's former adviser savaged him in front of, and produced serious allegations to, Mr Hancock fired back.

He insisted he acted with "honesty and integrity" throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Cummings' explosive claims included allegations that the Health Secretary lied repeatedly during the pandemic, attempted to blame others if policies went wrong and should have been fired.

Chairing the combined Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee, Greg Clark said Mr Cummings has not provided evidence to back up his allegations and not explained why, despite missing the deadline of last Friday.

Read more: Hancock: 'Similar pathogen to Covid in less than 100 years. We need to be better prepared'

Read more: Dominic Cummings: The key quotes from Boris Johnson's ex-adviser

Mr Hancock said that was "telling" and added: "Throughout this I have got out of bed every morning with the view and the attitude that my job is to do everything I could to save lives and get this country out of the pandemic."

He said he had "no idea" why Mr Cummings had a dispute with him, but said Government has "operated better in the past six months" since the ex-Vote Leave boss departed.

Asked if he knew Mr Cummings wanted him to get the sack, Mr Hancock said: "Yes, because he briefed the newspapers at the time. Or somebody briefed the newspapers, I now have a better idea who that was."

Responding to other criticisms, the Health Secretary insisted he was never told the public was not getting Covid treatment required, which Mr Cummings had claimed.

Mr Hancock said he also followed clinical advice on discharging hospital patients to care homes in the pandemic, with Mr Cummings claiming he lied to the PM about testing patients.

Read more: Matt Hancock brands Dominic Cummings' allegations as 'unsubstantiated and untrue'

"We set out a policy that people would be tested when tests were available. Then I set about building the testing capacity for us to be able to deliver on that," Mr Hancock told MPs.

"The challenge was not just that we didn't have the testing capacity but also that the clinical advice was that a test on somebody who didn't have any symptoms could easily return a false negative and therefore give false assurance that that person did not have the disease.

"At the same time, the clinicians were worried that, because it took four days to turn a test around, that if they leave somebody in hospital for those four days they might catch Covid and therefore go back to a care home with a negative result but having caught it."

Mr Hancock said a recent Public Health England report found that approximately 1.6% of cases going into care homes came from people discharged from hospital.

MPs also heard he denied discussing blaming scientists if things went wrong with Boris Johnson, another claim from Mr Cummings.

He has also denied blaming Chancellor Rishi Sunak or NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens for blocking approvals of PPE.

He added that his whole approach to the pandemic has been that "this is a team effort" and you "can't respond to a pandemic just by pointing fingers".

Matt Hancock said he has received no evidence to suggest any medics died due to a failure to provide them with PPE during the pandemic.

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