Matt Hancock expected to hit back at critics in evidence to Covid inquiry – live

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Boris Johnson is due to give evidence to the Covid inquiry for two days next week, on Wednesday and Thursday, the inquiry has announced. He is the only witness scheduled for next week.

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No witness has been more critical of Matt Hancock than Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser. In paragraph 508 of his witness statement Cummings gives a long list of times when he claims Hancock lied to No 10 about Covid arrangements.

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Cummings’ list of examples of when he says Hancock lied to No 10 about Covid","contributors":[],"primaryDateLine":"Thu 30 Nov 2023 09.40 GMT","secondaryDateLine":"First published on Thu 30 Nov 2023 08.58 GMT"},{"id":"6568539f8f0879b7268e74ff","elements":[{"_type":"model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement","html":"

I was going to compile my own guide to the critical comments about Matt Hancock made by previous witnesses to the inquiry but, frankly, the list is so long that it would take quite a while. Luckily Dan Bloom and Noah Keate have down their own version for Politico’s London Playbook.

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\n

Hancock must now answer the Murder on the Orient Express-style procession of senior figures who’ve done him in. Greatest hits include Dominic Cummings calling him a “proven liar” … Helen MacNamara saying he’d say things in meetings that “we’d discover [weren’t] in fact the case” … Patrick Vallance saying he had a “habit” of saying things “without evidence to back them up” … Mark Sedwill texting that he needed removing to “save lives and protect the NHS” … Simon Case name-checking him in the government’s “weak team” … Manchester mayor Andy Burnham saying Hancock knew Tier 3 restrictions wouldn’t work when he imposed them … Simon Stevens saying he wanted to decide “who should live and who should die” … and Chris Wormald saying he “overpromised” (but not that he lied).

\n

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John Stevens at the Mirror has also got a longer version of the same list.

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Good morning. With the possible exception of Boris Johnson, no one has received as much criticism from witnesses giving evidence to the Covid inquiry as Matt Hancock, who was health secretary for the first 15 months of the pandemic, including all three lockdowns. He has a lot to answer for and the inquiry has set aside a day and a half for his evidence.

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As Toby Helm reported in the Observer at the weekend, Hancock’s allies believe he will hit back by arguing that his efforts to get No 10 to take Covid more seriously in early 2020 were ignored. Toby says:

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\n

Matt Hancock and his officials bombarded Downing Street with early warnings about Covid-19 but were treated with ridicule and contempt, according to senior Whitehall figures, who believe that the former health secretary is unfairly being made a scapegoat by civil servants and scientists during the official inquiry into the pandemic.

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Attempts by the Department of Health, in mid to late January 2020, to raise the alarm were dismissed out of hand by senior staff working for the then prime minister, Boris Johnson, because they believed Hancock was mainly seeking publicity and exaggerating the dangers, the insiders say.

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One with detailed knowledge of events at the time told the Observer: “The DoH was pushing really hard and the Cabinet Office and Downing Street were saying :‘Look, we’ve just had an election and we have got to get Brexit done: could you and your pandemic just fuck off and stop irritating us.’ They totally trivialised it and did not want to engage.”

\n

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I will be focusing on Hancock’s evidence for most of the day, but other politics will get a look-in too. Here is the agenda for the day.

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Morning: Rishi Sunak is on a visit in Guildford.

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9am: Gordon Brown, the former Labour PM, speaks at a Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Pay conference in Edinburgh.

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10am: Matt Hancock gives evidence to the Covid inquiry. The hearing is scheduled to run all day and continue tomorrow.

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10am: Alex Salmond, the former Scottish first minister who now leads the Alba party, is holding a press conference.

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11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

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If you want to contact me, do try the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a laptop or a desktop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting, too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line; privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate); or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest.

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Boris Johnson to give evidence to Covid inquiry all Wednesday and Thursday next week, inquiry says

Boris Johnson is due to give evidence to the Covid inquiry for two days next week, on Wednesday and Thursday, the inquiry has announced. He is the only witness scheduled for next week.

Schedule for next week
Schedule for next week Photograph: Covid inquiry

Dominic Cummings’ list of examples of when he says Hancock lied to No 10 about Covid

No witness has been more critical of Matt Hancock than Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser. In paragraph 508 of his witness statement Cummings gives a long list of times when he claims Hancock lied to No 10 about Covid arrangements.

Extract from Dominic Cummings' witness statement
Extract from Dominic Cummings’ witness statement Photograph: Covid inquiry

What previous witnesses to Covid inquiry have said about Hancock

I was going to compile my own guide to the critical comments about Matt Hancock made by previous witnesses to the inquiry but, frankly, the list is so long that it would take quite a while. Luckily Dan Bloom and Noah Keate have down their own version for Politico’s London Playbook.

Hancock must now answer the Murder on the Orient Express-style procession of senior figures who’ve done him in. Greatest hits include Dominic Cummings calling him a “proven liar” … Helen MacNamara saying he’d say things in meetings that “we’d discover [weren’t] in fact the case” … Patrick Vallance saying he had a “habit” of saying things “without evidence to back them up” … Mark Sedwill texting that he needed removing to “save lives and protect the NHS” … Simon Case name-checking him in the government’s “weak team” … Manchester mayor Andy Burnham saying Hancock knew Tier 3 restrictions wouldn’t work when he imposed them … Simon Stevens saying he wanted to decide “who should live and who should die” … and Chris Wormald saying he “overpromised” (but not that he lied).

John Stevens at the Mirror has also got a longer version of the same list.

Updated at 09.37 GMT

Matt Hancock appears at Covid inquiry

Good morning. With the possible exception of Boris Johnson, no one has received as much criticism from witnesses giving evidence to the Covid inquiry as Matt Hancock, who was health secretary for the first 15 months of the pandemic, including all three lockdowns. He has a lot to answer for and the inquiry has set aside a day and a half for his evidence.

As Toby Helm reported in the Observer at the weekend, Hancock’s allies believe he will hit back by arguing that his efforts to get No 10 to take Covid more seriously in early 2020 were ignored. Toby says:

Matt Hancock and his officials bombarded Downing Street with early warnings about Covid-19 but were treated with ridicule and contempt, according to senior Whitehall figures, who believe that the former health secretary is unfairly being made a scapegoat by civil servants and scientists during the official inquiry into the pandemic.

Attempts by the Department of Health, in mid to late January 2020, to raise the alarm were dismissed out of hand by senior staff working for the then prime minister, Boris Johnson, because they believed Hancock was mainly seeking publicity and exaggerating the dangers, the insiders say.

One with detailed knowledge of events at the time told the Observer: “The DoH was pushing really hard and the Cabinet Office and Downing Street were saying :‘Look, we’ve just had an election and we have got to get Brexit done: could you and your pandemic just fuck off and stop irritating us.’ They totally trivialised it and did not want to engage.”

I will be focusing on Hancock’s evidence for most of the day, but other politics will get a look-in too. Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: Rishi Sunak is on a visit in Guildford.

9am: Gordon Brown, the former Labour PM, speaks at a Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Pay conference in Edinburgh.

10am: Matt Hancock gives evidence to the Covid inquiry. The hearing is scheduled to run all day and continue tomorrow.

10am: Alex Salmond, the former Scottish first minister who now leads the Alba party, is holding a press conference.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

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Updated at 09.36 GMT

The Guardian