COVID-19: Health Secretary Matt Hancock Health secretary to face questions from MPs on government’s pandemic response

The health secretary is set to face questions from MPs about his role in the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Matt Hancock will field questions from MPs on the Science and Technology and Health and Social Care committees from 9.30am.

He is likely to face tough questions on things like coronavirus testing, test and trace and the government’s approach to care homes in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Hancock’s appearance comes after Dominic Cummings took the health secretary to task in an extraordinary session in front of the same MPs last month.

Mr Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, made a raft of claims about the health secretary’s performance during the pandemic.

He said Mr Hancock should have been sacked for “15 to 20 things” including “lying” to people “on multiple occasions”.

Responding to Mr Cummings’ allegations, the health secretary told MPs the “unsubstantiated” claims were not true.

“I’ve been straight with people in public and in private throughout,” he said.

On Wednesday, the two Commons committees released a letter they sent to Mr Cummings last week calling for him to provide evidence to back up his allegations.

They set him a deadline of last Friday (4 June) but say they have yet to receive a response.

In their letter, the committees say Mr Cummings made “several serious allegations”.

“We appreciate that providing documentary evidence of these conversations may not be possible,” the MPs note.

“However we are sure you understand that without further evidence we have to consider these allegations as unsubstantiated.”

The committee asked for evidence to back up a number of Mr Cummings’ claims about the health secretary:

• Evidence that Mr Hancock was briefed by the government’s chief scientific adviser that not everybody who required treatment for COVID-19 received it
• Evidence that the Cabinet secretary said he had “lost confidence” in the health secretary’s “honesty”, including Mr Cummings’ contemporary note of this comment
• Evidence that Mr Hancock interfered in the expanding of testing capacity in April 2020
• Evidence to clarify what assurances Mr Cummings, the PM or cabinet were given and when, that patients being discharged from hospital into social care were being tested, and by whom these assurances were given

The committee also asked for a number of written exchanges between Mr Cummings and key figures, including the PM and Mr Hancock, as well as key documents and evidence to back up his more general claims about the government’s pandemic response.

This includes evidence on the advice given in the run-up to the introduction of tiered restrictions in October and the imposition of a second national lockdown weeks later.

In particular, the MPs asked for evidence to substantiate Mr Cummings’ allegation that Mr Johnson “ignored” advice to introduce a short lockdown in September.

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