Matt Hancock should resign after ‘catastrophic failures,’ says Labour

‘I think he should hang his head in shame,’ says Angela Rayner

Labour’s deputy leader has suggested Matt Hancock should resign in the wake of a testing blunder that resulted in more than 15,000 positive coronavirus being omitted from official data.

In her strongest criticism yet of the health secretary, Angela Rayner said he had presided over a string of failures during the pandemic and also described Boris Johnson’s cabinet as a “complete shambles”.

Her remarks came after Mr Hancock told the Commons that almost half of the people who may have been exposed to the 15,941 individuals with the virus – not originally included in government figures – had not yet been contacted and instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace.

Asked on ITV’s Good Morning Britain whether the cabinet minister should resign, Ms Rayner replied: “Yeah, absolutely. I think he should hang his head in shame.”

She added: “But I don’t think he’s the only problem. I think the whole of the frontbench are a problem and they’ve not been truthful with the British people and they owe them a massive big apology for the thousands of excess deaths… they are a disgrace.”

Pressed on Mr Hancock’s role again on Sky News, Labour’s deputy leader added: “Well, he should be considering his position.  He’s had multiple of failures ever since he took on the role.

“But it’s not just a failure of the health secretary. It’s been a failure of the chancellor in terms of the support he’s given to businesses. He’s winding up the furlough scheme this month but actually I would say we need it more targeted to support those businesses as we do see these local restrictions because otherwise these businesses are going to go to the wall. 

“The prime minister couldn’t even tell us what his own communications and his own restrictions were that he put in place. So it’s not one failure by one minister, it’s a constant by the frontbench of this government. They are a complete shambles and incompetent.”

"If I was him [Mr Hancock] I’d be completely embarrassed by the failures I’d overseen. But it’s not just the failures of these 15-16,000 tests that dropped off an Excel spreadsheet, we were told that we have world beating system in place – that’s not been in the case. It’s not just one failure, it’s catastrophic.”

Answering questions from MPs on Monday, Mr Hancock refused to discuss details of the error that emerged over the weekend, but appeared to pin the blame on Public Health England, referring to its “legacy system”.

He said the weakness had been recognised in the summer, with an upgrade ordered in August, but did not explain why the problem had continued through to October.

While arguing delayed contact tracing had begun “first thing Saturday”, he admitted only “51 per cent of the cases have now been contacted a second time for contract tracing purposes”.

"I want to reassure the house that outbreak control in care homes, schools and hospitals has not been directly affected because dealing with outbreaks in these settings does not primarily rely on this PHE system,” the health secretary added.

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