Matt Hancock should have been sacked for "lying" over handling of pandemic, Dominic Cummings says
Boris Johnson should have sacked Health Secretary Matt Hancock for his performance during the coronavirus pandemic and was urged by several senior officials to do so, Dominic Cummings has said in extraordinary evidence to MPs.
The Prime Minister's former aide singled out Hancock as a "senior" member of government who "performed far, far, disastrously below the standards that the country has a right to expect" in Wednesday morning's evidence session.
He said: "The secretary of state for health should have been fired for at least 15-20 things including lying to everybody on multiple occasions in meeting after meeting in the Cabinet Room and publicly".
Cummings claimed that he, then Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill, and other senior government officials advised the Prime Minister to sack Hancock.
Cummings arrives for the marathon committee session
He alleged that Sedwill, who stepped down from his former role in September, said he had "lost confidence" in Hancock's honesty after a meeting about the government's PPE supplies early in the pandemic in which he refused to accept responsibility for shortages in hospitals.
Cummings told MPs: “Just before the Prime Minister and I were diagnosed with having Covid ourselves, the secretary of state for health told us in the Cabinet Room ‘everything is fine on PPE, we've got it all covered, etc, etc’.
“When I came back, almost the first meeting I had in the Cabinet room was about the disaster over PPE and how actually hospitals all over the country were running out.
“The Secretary of State said in that meeting ‘this is the fault of [NHS chief] Simon Stevens, it's the fault of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it's not my fault, they blocked approvals on all sorts of things’.
“I said to the Cabinet Secretary, please investigate this and find out if it's true, the Cabinet Secretary came back to me and said ‘it's completely untrue, I have lost confidence in the Secretary of State's honesty in these meetings’.”
Cummings also claimed that on March 12 last year, just a week before the Prime Minister announced the first national lockdown, the government's emergency planning was "completely disrupted" by President Trump and a story published in The Times about Dilyn, the dog owned by Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds.
Cummings said it was clear the country was "heading for total catastrophe" but officials were distracted by a debate over whether to join a US bombing campaign in the Middle East and Symonds "going completely crackers" over a story claiming Dilyn was set to be re-homed.
"You had the national security people running in and out taking about 'are we going to bomb the Middle East' and we had Cobra meeting delayed because we were trying to figure out what to do about household quarantine," he told MPs.
"That day the Times had run a huge story about the PM and his girlfriend and their dog and the PM's girlfriend was going completely crackers about this story and demanding that the press office deal with that".
"So we had this completely insane situation where parts of the building were saying, are we going to bomb Iraq, part of the building arguing about whether we are going to argue about are we going to do quarantine or not.
"The PM has his girlfriend going crackers about something completely trivial and you have all these meetings going on through the course of the 12th".
Earlier in the session, Cummings reflected on the hours and days at the beginning of the pandemic when he realised the government was not fully prepared for it.
He claimed that Helen McNamara, the deputy cabinet secretary, following a meeting with officials int he Department of Health and Social Care (DCMS) said: "I think we are absolutely fucked. I think this country is heading for disaster. I think we're going to kill thousands of people."
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