Matt Hancock to appear before Covid inquiry


Matt Hancock will be the latest high-profile politician to appear before the Covid-19 inquiry as hearings continue into Government preparedness for the pandemic.

The former health secretary, who helped steer the coronavirus response before being forced to quit in June 2021, will give evidence to Lady Hallett’s inquiry today (June 27).

His attendance at the inquiry comes after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, another former health secretary, admitted that “group-think” helped lead to a “narrowness of thinking” that failed to expand pandemic preparedness beyond planning for a flu outbreak.

Former deputy chief medical officer Dame Jenny Harries was yesterday quizzed on the capacity of the UK health system as well as the organisational reforms before the Covid outbreak.

Mr Hancock became health secretary in mid-2018, but his political career was torpedoed after footage emerged in 2021 of his embrace with aide Gina Coladangelo.

He was central to the Government’s pandemic era decision-making and messaging, with his own recollections of the period likely to be a crucial part of the inquiry.

A leak of more than a 100,000 of his WhatsApp messages by journalist Isabel Oakeshott, many of which were published earlier this year, provided a glimpse into the inner workings of Government during the period.

The West Suffolk MP, who will stand down at the next general election, has faced questions in the past about the policy on Covid testing and nursing homes.

Former prime minister David Cameron, former chancellor George Osborne and chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty are all among those who have appeared before the committee so far.

Meanwhile, a former parliamentary private secretary to Mr Hancock has apologised for attending an event in Parliament while Covid restrictions were still in place.

The Guido Fawkes website reported that Virginia Crosbie, MP for Ynys Mon, was the co-host of an alleged drinks event on December 8, 2020, with the site quoting a WhatsApp message from Baroness Jenkin describing the event as “joint birthday drinks” to mark the pair turning 54 and 65 respectively.

The event came under the spotlight when Boris Johnson lashed out at the Privileges Committee ahead of its damning report into his conduct, and accused Sir Bernard Jenkin of “monstrous hypocrisy” for allegedly attending the event with his wife.

Ms Crosbie confirmed the event took place but said she had not sent out any invitation.

“Regarding reports of an event held on 8th December 2020 I would like to set out the facts,” she said in a statement.

“The invitation for this event was not sent out by me. I attended the event briefly, I did not drink and I did not celebrate my birthday. I went home shortly after to be with my family.

“I apologise unreservedly for a momentary error of judgment in attending the event.”

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