Matt Hancock Refuses To Apologise For Unlawfully Failing To Publish Covid Contracts

The health secretary said it was “second order” to saving lives.

Matt Hancock has declined to apologise after the High Court ruled the government unlawfully failed to publish details of billions of pounds’ worth of coronavirus-related contracts.

The health secretary has faced calls for greater accountability after a judge said he did not publish redacted contracts in accordance with the transparency policy.

Hancock insisted legal cases about transparency returns were “second order” to saving lives and said his officials had been working long hours to procure PPE instead.

He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “People can make up their own view about whether I should have told my team to stop buying PPE and spend the time bringing forward those transparency returns by just over a fortnight.

“Or whether I was right to buy the PPE and get it to the front line. You tell me that that is wrong. You can’t. And the reason you can’t is because it was the right thing to do.

“Legal cases about timings of transparency returns are completely second order compared to saving lives.”

“There is no health secretary in history who would have taken the view that they needed to take people off the project of buying PPE in order to ensure that nine months later the Health Secretary didn’t have a slightly bumpy interview on the Marr programme.

“It is not what it is about, Andrew (Marr), it is about doing the right thing.”

A number of government contracts handed out during the pandemic have come under scrutiny in recent months.

On Monday, Dominic Cummings has told a judge that he did not ask for a company run by his “friends” to be awarded a lucrative government contract, adding that he would “never do such a thing”.

The controversial former aide to Boris Johnson was defending the award of the contract to Public First after a campaign group complained of “apparent bias” and took legal action.

The Good Law Project has begun a High Court fight with the Cabinet Office after complaining about the way the contract was awarded to a company with links to Cummings, following the start of the coronavirus crisis nearly a year ago.

Ministers are fighting the claim and Cummings outlined the reasoning behind the contract award in a written witness statement, seen by Justice O’Farrell.

And on Sunday, the Guardian reported that a former neighbour of Hancock is under investigation by the UK’s medical regulator after last year securing lucrative work producing millions of vials for NHS Covid tests.

Responding the report, Labour’s Rachel Reeve, said: “This is extremely worrying and the reasons for handing this contract out in the first place must be investigated and shared in the public interest.

“The government needs to get a grip on the cronyism and waste marring its pandemic procurement.

“It must be far more transparent and publish outstanding contracts and details of the VIP fast lane now.”


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