'Absolute Disgrace': Tory MPs Tear Into Matt Hancock Over Leaked Messages

He discussed withholding funding for a learning disability centre to pressure an MP not to rebel, leaked messages suggest
Matt Hancock and Jake Berry
Matt Hancock and Jake Berry
Getty

A senior Tory MP has branded Matt Hancock an “absolute disgrace” over leaked messages he sent during the pandemic.

Jake Berry said Hancock should be hauled before the Commons for questioning over an exchange about funding for a disability centre.

WhatsApp messages leaked to The Telegraph suggest the former health secretary discussed withholding funding for a learning disability centre to pressure an MP not to rebel against coronavirus restrictions.

Hancock and an aide apparently spoke about warning Bury North MP James Daly that a new hub would be “off the table” if he voted against the government, according to the investigation.

Berry, a former Tory party chairman, fumed on Twitter: “This is an absolute disgrace.

“Hancock should be dragged to the bar of the House of Commons first thing tomorrow morning to be questioned on this.”

Berry went on to tell Times Radio that Hancock and his advisers acted in an “absolutely despicable and appalling way”.

Sir Jake, who has a son with additional needs, added: “Once you get to the point that you are weaponising the provision of care to disabled children, I think you have crossed the line.”

Hancock’s team said “what’s being accused here never happened” as they disputed the “entirely partial account” based on a trove of leaked WhatsApp messages.

The Telegraph said the discussion between Hancock and political aide Allan Nixon came ahead of a vote on December 1, 2020, on the introduction of new Covid restrictions in England.

Nixon said they need to “dangle our top asks” over some of the newest MPs who entered Parliament in 2019.

Nixon suggested, for example, “James wants his learning disability hub in Bury – whips call him up and say health team want to work with him to deliver this but that’ll be off the table if he rebels”.

Tory MP James Daly
Tory MP James Daly
UK Parliament via PA Media

“These guys’ re-election hinges on us in a lot of instances, and we know what they want. We should seriously consider using it IMO,” he wrote.

Hancock’s response was “yes 100%”.

Tory MP Daly told the paper he was “appalled” and “disgusted” that the disability hub was discussed as a way to coerce him into voting with ministers.

But he said the threat was never made to him.

Hancock’s spokesman said: “As we’ve repeatedly seen this last week, it is completely wrong to take this entirely partial account and write it up as fact.

“What’s being accused here never happened, demonstrating the story is wrong, and showing why such a biased, partial approach to the evidence is a bad mistake, driven by those with a vested interest and an axe to grind.

“The right place to consider everything about the pandemic objectively is in the public inquiry.”

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