Families who lost loved ones during the pandemic are demanding Matt Hancock come clean about his mistakes today.
The former Health Secretary will be grilled under oath about his actions as he appears at the Covid Inquiry this morning. Mr Hancock has been accused of repeatedly failing to tell the truth to ministers and officials during the crisis.
The former Tory MP now sits as an independent after losing the party whip for appearing on ITV's I'm A Celebrity. Ahead of his appearance, the Covid 19 Families for Justice group has said they deserve to be told the truth about what happened.
Nicola Brook, a solicitor at Broudie Jackson Canter who is representing the group, said: “As the guardian of the nation’s health throughout much of the pandemic, Matt Hancock’s testimony is critical to the inquiry. Many of our bereaved clients hold him directly responsible for the significant and wholly disproportionate loss of life in our country and rightly, demand answers.
“There’s been a common theme running throughout the evidence heard to date about the reliability of Mr Hancock’s word, with multiple witnesses giving evidence that they could not rely on what he said.
“Our clients have waited a long time to hear the former health secretary answer for the catalogue of errors made during the pandemic which had the gravest of consequences for so many, and will be looking for candour, not counterclaims. This is the very least that they deserve.”
During the pandemic, Mr Hancock claimed a “protective ring” had been thrown around care homes. He resigned in June 2021 after CCTV footage emerged of him breaching social distancing guidance by kissing his colleague Gina Coladangelo.
A spokesman for Mr Hancock said: "Mr Hancock has supported the inquiry throughout and will respond to all questions when he gives his evidence."
'Habit of saying things' that weren't true
Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance stuck the boot into the former Health Secretary as he appeared at the Inquiry last week. The top scientist said: "I think he had a habit of saying things which he didn't have a basis for and he would say them too enthusiastically, too early, without the evidence to back them up, and then have to backtrack from them days later.
"I don't know to what extent that was sort of over-enthusiasm versus deliberate - I think a lot of it was over-enthusiasm. He definitely said things which surprised me because I knew that the evidence base wasn't there." When asked if this meant he "said things that weren't true", Sir Patrick answered "yes".
'Nuclear levels' of overconfidence
Helen MacNamara, the former Deputy Cabinet Secretary, accused Mr Hancock of displaying "nuclear levels" of overconfidence.
Giving evidence earlier this month, she recalled an occasion early in the pandemic when she asked how the then Health Secretary faring and he told her he was “loving responsibility”. “To demonstrate this [he] took up a batsman's stance outside the Cabinet Room and said 'they bowl them at me, I knock them away',” she added.
Sack Hancock to 'save lives'
The country’s top civil servant wrote in WhatsApp messages during the pandemic that Mr Hancock should be sacked "to save lives and the NHS ". Lord Sedwill, who was Cabinet Secretary until September 2020, told the Inquiry earlier this month that he had urged Mr Johnson to remove him as Health Secretary.
He accused Mr Hancock of lacking “truthfulness”, saying that officials had to double check claims he made in meetings. In messages shown to the Inquiry, Lord Sedwill wrote that it was necessary to remove Mr Hancock to “save lives and protect the NHS”. At a hearing earlier this month, the former civil servant said this was “gallows humour”.
Other messages included one in which he wrote that Mr Hancock was “so far up BJ’s [Johnson’s] arse his ankles are brown”.
'Killing God knows how many'
Dominic Cummings claimed Mr Hancock was responsible for “killing God knows how many” people by failing to protect those in care homes. In explosive WhatsApp messages to Boris Johnson, the former top aide demanded the Tory minister was sacked as Health Secretary.
Mr Cummings warned that he was a “proven liar” who should not be in charge of the NHS. The Covid Inquiry has published a series of messages in which concerns were raised about the failure to introduce testing to stop the virus getting into care homes.
On May 7, 2020 Mr Cummings told the PM: “Hancock is unfit for this job. The incompetence, the constant lies, the obsession with media bulls*** over doing his job. Still no f***ing serious testing in care homes, his uselessness is still killing God knows how many.”
In another WhatsApp exchange in the same month, Mr Cummings told Mr Johnson: "You need to think through timing of binning Hancock. There's no way the guy can stay. He's lied his way through this and killed people.”
In summer 2020, the senior No10 aide stepped up his calls for a reshuffle. In a message in August, he told Mr Johnson that his Cabinet ministers were “useless f***pigs”, who were acting “feral”. Referring to Mr Hancock, he added: “I also must stress I think leaving Hancock in post is a big mistake - he is a proven liar who nobody believes or shd [sic] believe on anything, and we face going into autumn crisis with the c*** in charge of NHS still.”
'Sowed chaos' with wrong advice
As he appeared at the Covid Inquiry earlier this month, Mr Cummings also argued that Mr Hancock "sowed chaos" by continuing to tell the public in March 2020 that people without symptoms of a dry cough and a temperature were unlikely to be suffering from coronavirus.
He added: “He was repeatedly told by [Chief Scientific Adviser Sir] Patrick Vallance that what he was saying was wrong. But he kept saying it. "So this false meme lodged itself in crucial people's minds. I don't understand, never understood why Hancock said this. But Patrick Vallance made extremely clear to me and to others in No 10 that what Hancock was saying was factually wrong."