Hancock has just announced to the Commons that India will be added to the red list of countries at 4 am on Friday. The news follows the belated cancellation of the PM’s trip to meet Modi after their capital locked down. This looks like a case of the science following the politics…
Last night, the story Guido readers first learnt on Wednesday – that Matt Hancock has shares in his sister’s NHS contract-winning firm – became the Independent’s ‘front page’ (though only the BBC credits Guido for first revealing the shares). A government spokesperson maintains Hancock acted “entirely properly in these circumstances”
“All declarations of interest have been made in accordance with the ministerial code. Ministers have no involvement in the awarding of these contracts, and no conflict of interest arises.”
Too soon? The story gets worse for Matt…
Last night the Health Service Journal revealed not only did Hancock’s sister’s firm win two NHS Wales contracts, it won a place on a framework to provide services to the English NHS in 2019 – half a year after Hancock became Health Secretary. He failed to declare any conflicts of interest in his member’s register.
While many ministers do declare interests of parents and siblings – even when they aren’t directly relevant to their role – the Department for Health wouldn’t be drawn on whether Hancock discussed his family involvement in the firm with the permanent secretary or independent advisor.
Labour has now leapt on the story, saying “there needs to be a full inquiry and immediate publication of all documents relating to Topwood’s acceptance onto the framework contract in 2019.” They could have called for an inquiry a whole day sooner if they’d been reading Guido…
As new modelling released by University College London (UCL) predicts the UK will pass the threshold for herd immunity by Monday (with 73.4% of the population protected either by vaccination or previous infection), Matt Hancock was quick to pour cold water on the findings during an interview with LBC‘s Nick Ferrari. Speaking this morning, Hancock said:
“I was told by some scientists that we were going to have herd immunity in May, and then in June, and then after that […] what I prefer to do is watch the data. And so we’ve set out the road map, the road map is really clear, it is our route back to normal, we’re on track to meet the road map, and that’s our goal.”
Pressed on why the government seemed keen to accept the pessimistic assumptions within the Imperial College data, yet sceptical of UCL’s new study, Hancock – rather predictably – said:
“I think we have taken the right course in plotting our way to freedom, and doing it carefully, because we want it to be irreversible. We have seen what happens when this virus gets going […] and we want to get out of this safely and irreversibly.”
The ‘data not dates’ refrain feels less plausible with every passing day…
Last night Matt Hancock told Tory activists the battle for private sector involvement in the NHS has been won, and that the “flawed political argument that I used to hear a lot from the likes of Jeremy Corbyn” has been proved completely wrong and false by the pandemic. Possibly the most overtly pro-privatisation views from a UK Health Secretary Guido has heard since the ’80s…
Hancock, appearing on a video call with Conservative Friends of Israel, said:
“I think that the old argument that ‘public sector good, private sector bad’ has been really demonstrated as completely false by the pandemic”
“I hope that that – what I regard as a sort of flawed political argument that used to hear a lot from the likes of Jeremy Corbyn – I hope that that has been proved completely wrong and false by the pandemic, and that we’ve really won the argument.”
Fingers crossed the government has the bravery, with its 80 seat majority, to follow through on post-pandemic NHS reforms with the same beliefs expressed in this behind-closed-doors boasting…
Matt Hancock told the Today Programme this morning that a “third wave appears to be taking hold” in Europe, with a rising number of cases, hospitalisations, and new lockdown measures reimposed in countries like France and Germany. The Health Secretary said that rising cases on the continent has led to rising cases at home before, acknowledging that “This time we have as a defence our very extensive vaccine programme”, insisting caution is still necessary to “protect” that success. Hancock explained that:
“In fact this is all about how we stick to our roadmap out. Because we have got our vaccination programme, we’ve got hope on the horizon, we can see our way out. The roadmap guides us on that route out, following the data all the way through checking that things are going well.
But there are two concerns. One is the sheer number of cases if international travel brings home more cases, but the other is the risk of a new variant that the vaccine can’t deal with as effectively. Both of those are unknowns… therefore it’s reasonable for us to take a precautionary careful approach, which is what we are doing at the borders.”
The precaution is a new £5,000 fine preventing people from going abroad. Note that you will not be stopped from leaving if you can afford to pay the fine. If people are tested before returning, why can’t they travel abroad? The state refusing to allow people to escape its clutches is a step too far, placing tough restrictions on people returning is one thing, refusing to allow them to leave is of a diferent order.