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Entertainment Matt Hancock says breaching law was in 'national interest' and he'd do it again

13:26  23 february  2021
13:26  23 february  2021 Source:   msn.com

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Defiant Matt Hancock has claimed he would breach the law over Covid contracts again if he was in the same situation.

The Health Secretary refused to apologise after a judge ruled he “breached his legal obligation” to publish details of contracts within 30 days.

The breach applied to “a substantial number of cases" - 217 out of 520 relevant contracts leading up to October 2020.

Labour urged Mr Hancock to deal with allegations of "cronyism" by publishing all the details of outstanding contracts and winding down emergency procurement powers.

Several contracts have been awarded to people or companies with links to either the minister personally or the Conservative Party. A National Audit Office report found there was a "high-priority" lane for firms recommended by "government officials, ministers’ offices, MPs and members of the House of Lords, senior NHS staff and other health professionals."

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But Mr Hancock sounded baffled today as he asked: "Are you saying that if you know a minister, you shouldn’t be allowed to have contracts?”

Matthew Hancock wearing a suit and tie: Matt Hancock refused to apologise over the legal breach on Covid contracts © PA Matt Hancock refused to apologise over the legal breach on Covid contracts

On Sunday the Health Secretary insisted: "Of course, we publish all the details we’re required to publish and that’s been happening all the way through."

But today he said he would breach the law again if needed.

He told Sky News: "We accepted in full that these things were published a fortnight late. That isn’t in dispute.

“We argued the public interest defence - it’s in the national interest that we did what we did.”

“Sure, if we weren’t able to put the paperwork in on time - in normal times of course we’d put the paperwork in on time.

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“But in the middle of a global pandemic you don’t.

“You can ask me as many questions as you like, you’re not going to change my view.

“And if I had my time again, absolutely I would do exactly the same thing, exactly the same thing, even if it led to this conversation.

“Because what I care about is making sure people have the protection they need.”

Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders hit back: "Knowing a Minister shouldn’t stop you getting a contract but neither should it mean you get preferential treatment in a VIP lane.

"He should apologise for breaking the law. He should apologise for allowing PPE stockpiles to dwindle. He should apologise for leaving Health & Social care staff without PPE.

"He should apologise for the worst death toll in Europe. There is plenty for him to apologise for."

The Health Secretary clashed with a furious Piers Morgan on ITV's Good Morning Britain over the issue - with the host lashing out after Mr Hancock claimed there had not been a PPE shortage.

Mr Hancock said: "If I were given my time again and given the choice between doing work that saved lives or filing paperwork on the right date, I'd have done the same."

Interrupting, Piers Morgan shouted: "Hang on, you could do both can't you? Surely you can try to get PPE which we were short of, and also ensure your department doesn't break the law."

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usr: 0
This is interesting!