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MATT HANCOCK has dismissed a court ruling that he acted unlawfully over the handling of multibillion-pound Covid-19 contracts, defending his actions as the “right thing to do.”
A judge ruled that the Health Secretary had “breached his legal obligation” by not publishing details of public contracts within 30 days of them being signed.
But Mr Hancock defended his failure to disclose the contracts within the time limits, claiming that officials had instead been focused on procuring personal protective equipment (PPE).
“My officials, with my full support, spent every waking hour buying PPE so that even though we came close we never actually ran out of PPE in this country – and they did that even though the paperwork got delayed by, on average, just over a fortnight,” he told the BBC.
“That’s what the court found and I – and I think any secretary of state in my position – would absolutely back my officials in doing the right thing and saving lives.”
His response was slammed by Green MP Caroline Lucas, one of those who brought the legal action, who said: “Health workers died for lack of [the] right PPE at [the] right time because of incompetence, cronyism and waste — does he think our memories are so short?"
Asked if he would resign, Mr Hancock said he would not, and argued it was “not true” to say that he had refused to publish the public contracts, some of which were handed to friends of senior Tories.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he would not call for the Health Secretary’s resignation.
But other Labour MPs broke from Sir Keir’s stance, with Nadia Whittome posting on Twitter: “In what other job could you break the law and be let off?”
Anti-privatisation campaign group We Own It said it was disgraceful that Mr Hancock had refused to apologise to the public for his unlawful conduct.
“We shouldn’t be passing on massive contracts to private companies when the NHS and public health teams can deliver the work far better anyway,” campaigns officer Pascale Robinson told the Morning Star.
Ms Robinson said that transparency on the details of such contracts is the “absolute bare minimum” that ministers should give the public.
“The fact that the government can’t even do that is indicative of the scale of the outsourcing scandal at the heart of the government’s pandemic response,” she said.
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