The UK health secretary Matt Hancock has rejected allegations made against him by Boris Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings.
During a seven-hour evidence session at Westminster’s health and science committees on Wednesday, Cummings made a string of claims critical of the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
It included accusations against Hancock of repeatedly lying and being disastrously incompetent, whilst stating that the health secretary should have been fired on multiple occasions.
Responding to an urgent question in the Commons on the Government’s handling of the Covid outbreak, Hancock insisted that he had been “straight with people”.
He said: “These allegations that were put yesterday – and repeated by (Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth) – are serious allegations and I welcome the opportunity to come to the House to put formally on the record that these unsubstantiated allegations around honesty are not true.
“I’ve been straight with people in public and in private throughout.”
He continued: “Every day since I began working on the response to this pandemic last January, I’ve got up each morning and asked: ‘What must I do to protect life?’
“That is the job of the health secretary in a pandemic.
“We’ve taken an approach of openness, transparency and explanation of both what we know and of what we don’t know.”
Cummings had told MPs that senior ministers, officials and advisers had fallen “disastrously short” of the standards rightly expected by the public, and apologised to the families of those who he said had died unnecessarily because of mistakes that were made.
Hancock, who is due to face questions in a committee of MPs on June 10, said the Government has had to level with people when things have gone in the wrong direction during the pandemic.
He said: “Since last January I’ve attended this House over 60 times. With the Prime Minister, we have together hosted 84 press conferences, I’ve answered 2667 contributions to this House and answered questions from colleagues, the media and the public – and we’ll keep on with this spirit of openness and transparency throughout.”
The health secretary added: “Sometimes what we’ve had to say hasn’t been easy. We’ve had to level with people when it’s been tough, when things have been going in the wrong direction.
“And also we’ve learned throughout. We’ve applied that learning both to tackling this pandemic and making sure that we’re as well-prepared in the future as possible.
“Beyond all this, what matters remains the same – getting vaccinated, getting tested, delivering for our country, overcoming this disease and saving lives, and that is what matters to the British people.”