Senior MPs will ask Dominic Cummings to present evidence that Matt Hancock repeatedly lied about Covid-19 policy ahead of the health secretary’s appearance in front of a parliamentary committee early next month.
Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark, the chairs of the joint selection committee that received seven hours of explosive testimony from Cummings last week, will write to the former prime minister’s adviser in the next few days asking him to present the evidence within the next fifteen days. .
A source close to the committee said: “You can’t just go around making accusations that cabinet ministers lied in front of a select committee without supporting it with evidence. We will ask you to provide some evidence to the committee and, if you do, we will decide whether to publish it before the secretary of health appears before the committee. “
The two committee chairs are also expected to request that Hancock, who is due to appear within two weeks, agree to an open session without a time limit, so that MPs can fully explore Cummings’ allegations against him and other issues related to handling. of Covid-19.
In his appearance before the committee, Cummings accused the health secretary of “lying to everyone on multiple occasions” and said he should have been fired 15 to 20 times. Hancock has denied all allegations.
Cummings claimed that Hancock, when pressed to explain the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) last April, had wrongly accused the head of England’s National Health Service, Simon Stevens, and the Treasury of blocking his efforts to order more equipment.
Cummings said then-cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill investigated Hancock’s claims and found them false, which, he said, led Cummings and Sedwill to ask the prime minister to fire him.
Cummings said: “In April of last year, just before the prime minister and I were diagnosed with Covid, the secretary of state for health told us in the cabinet room: ‘Everything is fine in PPE, we have it all covered. .
“When I came back (from feeling bad), almost the first meeting I had in the cabinet room was about the EPP disaster, and how we were actually completely short and hospitals across the country were running low.
“The secretary of state said at the meeting: ‘This is the fault of Simon Stevens, the finance minister, it is not my fault, they have blocked approvals of all kinds of things.’ I said to the cabinet secretary, ‘Please look into this and find out if it’s true.’ The cabinet secretary came up to me and said, ‘It’s completely untrue. I have lost confidence in the honesty of the Secretary of State in these meetings. ‘ The cabinet secretary told me that and he told the prime minister. “
Cummings also said that Hancock lied by saying that all people who move from hospital to nursing homes will be tested for Covid-19 before doing so, just so this doesn’t happen and Covid spreads through homes like a forest fire.
When questioned by Labor MP Graham Stringer, Cummings said: “When we found out in April that this had happened, the prime minister said a less polite version of: ‘What the hell are you telling me?’ – when he came back after being sick – ‘What the heck has happened to all these people in nursing homes?’ Hancock told us in the cabinet that people were to be screened before returning to nursing homes. What the hell happened?
The former adviser added: “In March we were categorically told that people would be tested before returning to nursing homes. Only later did we discover that this had not happened. Now all the government rhetoric was, ‘We have put a shield around the nursing homes’ and blah blah blah. It was complete nonsense. Rather than putting a shield on them, we send people with Covid back to nursing homes. “
Cummings also said that Hancock had been wrong to deny that the government had followed a policy of “herd immunity” at the start of the pandemic.
The committee members told the Observer that while Cummings had said he would provide the committee with physical evidence, including text messages and WhatsApp, he had not yet done so. “He didn’t leave anything behind, which was a bit surprising,” a committee source said.
“We were very specific at the hearing that the allegations against Matt Hancock needed to be upheld. He said he would testify and then backtracked a bit. “
“He clearly thinks he has something to do with nursing homes. He came armed with many papers, but left nothing behind. “
An Opinium poll for the Observer Today shows that while the public mistrusts Cummings, most believe many of the serious claims he made during his extraordinary appearance on a select committee last week.
Only 20% said they trusted Cummings, who made a controversial trip to the north of England last summer, to tell the truth, compared to 71% who said they didn’t trust him.
Only 14% think Cummings should have held a senior adviser position in government, compared to 61% who think he should not have held that position.
However, 60% believed it to be true, as stated by Cummings, that at the beginning of the pandemic, Johnson viewed the coronavirus as a scary story and described it as “the new swine flu.” Only 24% believed it was false. Two-thirds (66%) believed the government was following a herd immunity strategy at the beginning of the pandemic, and 20% viewed it as false.
Almost half (49%) believed that Health Secretary Matt Hancock lied to his colleagues that older people were tested before they were transferred from hospitals to nursing homes. Hancock denies this claim.
The majority (52%) believed that Johnson was so distracted by his personal life in March 2020 that he was unable to focus on the decisions that need to be made about Covid, while 34% believed this was not true.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism