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Boris Johnson was urged to fire his health secretary when the Covid outbreak began or “we are going to kill people”, Dominic Cummings has claimed, as he accused Matt Hancock of “criminal” behaviour.
The prime minister’s former top adviser levelled incendiary allegations at the health secretary – including that he held back tests and lied to the public and fellow ministers.
In dramatic three-hour testimony to two parliamentary committees on Wednesday, Cummings said officials were “terribly let down by senior leadership” and it was like “lions led by donkeys”.
He singled out Hancock, saying he should have been fired for “at least 15 to 20 things – including lying to everybody on multiple occasions”, and said he suggested this to the prime minister, as did the then-cabinet secretary, Mark Sedwill.
Asked if that meant some decision-makers should be worried about facing corporate manslaughter charges, Cummings said there was “no doubt at all that many senior people performed far, far disastrously below the standards which the country expects” – and that Hancock was “one of those people”.
When challenged by the Conservative MP Greg Clark, the chair of the science and technology committee, to provide evidence of wrongdoing, Cummings said there were “numerous” examples.
Cummings accused Hancock of being obsessed with meeting a “stupid” target he set himself to offer 100,000 Covid tests a day and diverting officials’ attention away from the task Cummings had set them to build a test-and-trace scheme from scratch, capable of processing 1 million tests a day.
Recalling a major battle in Whitehall, Cummings admitted he had to call around and tell people “do not do what Hancock says, build the thing properly for the medium-term” while Hancock was telling them to “down tools on this” and “hold tests back so that I can hit my target” so that he could crow about his success in TV interviews.
“He should have been fired for that thing alone,” said Cummings. “It was criminal, disgraceful behaviour that caused serious harm.”
Cummings also said he warned the prime minister in February and March, if Hancock was not fired, “we are going to kill people and it’s going to be a catastrophe”.
He said the prime minister “came close” to sacking Hancock in April “but just fundamentally wouldn’t do it”. Cummings added he pushed again for the health secretary to be replaced over the summer “otherwise we’re going to gave another catastrophe on our hands” in the autumn – but was once again ignored.
Turning to the times Cummings said Hancock lied, he recalled that towards the end of March the health secretary assured the cabinet that “everything is fine” with the supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical and care staff. But the ex-No 10 adviser said when he returned to work a few weeks later, following his Covid diagnosis, he was forced to immediately hold a meeting “about the disaster” of PPE – with supplies “completely short” and hospitals “running out”.
Hancock blamed Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, according to Cummings – claiming they had “blocked approvals”. Cummings said he asked Sedwill to investigate to find out if that was correct, and that Sedwill later told him it was “completely untrue” meaning he had “lost confidence in the secretary of state’s honesty in these meetings”.
Cummings recalled: “The cabinet secretary said that to me and the cabinet secretary said that to the PM.”
Asked if he made a note of Sedwill’s findings, Cummings said yes and promised to supply it to the two committees quizzing him.
He said there were “numerous” other examples, also citing Hancock claiming over the summer that “everyone who needed treatment got the treatment they required”.
Cummings claimed: “He knew that was a lie because he’d been briefed by the chief scientific adviser [Sir Patrick Vallance] and the chief medical officer [Prof Chis Whitty] himself about the first peak, and we were told explicitly people did not get the treatment they deserved. Many people were left to die in horrific circumstances.”
Cummings, who was booted out of No 10 in November and made headlines last spring for taking trips to Durham and Barnard Castle despite lockdown, added he was sorry for not “pulling the emergency string” and challenging government figures and scientists earlier, to urge them to issue the “stay at home” order that did not come until 23 March “weeks earlier”.
A spokesperson for Hancock and the Department for Health and Social Care was contacted for comment.
Challenged later by the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, over the “incredibly serious” claim that Sedwill said he had lost confidence in Hancock’s honesty, Johnson said it was untrue and he had not seen any “evidence” of that.
Hours before the committee session, Hancock refused to answer questions from journalists outside his home about Cummings, instead urging people to get vaccinated, before jogging away in running gear and waving at the cameras.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Matt Hancock should have been sacked for lying, says Dominic Cummings | Dominic Cummings