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by Kirsteen Paterson
01 March 2023
Keir Starmer hits out at Rishi Sunak over Matt Hancock Covid messages

Rishi Sunak leaves for Prime Minister's Questions

Keir Starmer hits out at Rishi Sunak over Matt Hancock Covid messages

Rishi Sunak was pressed to move forward with the Covid inquiry following explosive revelations in leaked WhatsApp messages from former UK health secretary Matt Hancock.

Published by the Daily Telegraph, they suggest Hancock rejected advice over testing for care home patients and prioritised his own targets during the public health crisis.

The newspaper has more than 100,000 messages sent between Hancock, ministers and officials throughout the pandemic. 

They were given to the title by journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who received them while working on Hancock's recent book, Pandemic Diaries.

At Prime Minister's Questions, the Labour leader called on Sunak to ensure there are "no more delays" on Westminster's official Covid inquiry.

Urging Sunak to ensure the probe "will have whatever support it needs to report by the end of this year", Starmer said: "We don't know the truth of what happened yet. There are too many messages and too many unknowns. 

"Families across the country will look at this, at the sight of politicians writing books, portraying themselves as heroes or selectively leaking messages will be insulting; a ghoulish spectacle for them.

"At the heart of this is every family who made enormous sacrifices for the good of the country, or who tragically lost loved ones. The country deserves better.

"The Covid inquiry has already cost the taxpayer £85m and hasn't heard from a single government minister yet. So can the prime minister assure the house, no more delays?"

Sunak said he would not "comment on piecemeal bits of information,” telling Starmer, "there is a proper process to these things".

He said: "It is an independent inquiry, it has the resources it needs, it has the powers it needs, and what we should all do in this House is let them get on and do their job."

The session came after Sunak travelled to Northern Ireland to mark the signing of the Windsor Framework, which aims to solve frictions over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

SNP leader Stephen Flynn asked: "Yesterday the prime minister said that EU single market access was ‘special’, ‘exciting’ and ‘attractive’. If that's the case, why has he denied it to the rest of us?"
Sunak accused Flynn of "seeking to play politics with the situation in Northern Ireland", stating: "What we are trying to do is restore the balance inherent in the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and he would do well to acknowledge that."

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