Jacob Rees-Mogg: I did not ask for Covid test to be couriered to my home

Dominic McGrath
Wednesday 01 March 2023 21:30 GMT
(AFP via Getty Images)

Jacob Rees-Mogg has admitted a Covid test was couriered to his house for one of his children by health officials during the pandemic, but said he did not ask for it.

As part of the leak of Matt Hancock’s WhatsApp messages to the Telegraph, the paper reported that in September 2020 an adviser to the then health secretary helped get a test sent to Mr Rees-Mogg’s home even as others across the country struggled to access testing.

The aide messaged Mr Hancock to say the lab had “lost” the original test for one of the senior Conservative’s children, “so we’ve got a courier going to their family home tonight”.

He added: “Jacob’s spad (special adviser) is aware and has helped line it all up, but you might want to text Jacob.”

Addressing this on his show on GB News, the former Commons leader said: “What happened was that one of my children needed a test and that put everybody into quarantine, but unfortunately the testing people lost it.

“And that meant I was quarantined, unable to do my job as a government minister for several days, until it was admitted that this had been lost.

“At that point it was raised with the Department of Health, and they decided to send a test to a member of my family so the test could be carried out.

“Not something I asked for, so if I received any special treatment, it wasn’t because I had requested it, but actually it allowed a government minister to get back to work with a child that didn’t have Covid in the first place, who wouldn’t have needed a special test had the system actually been working, but I accept it wasn’t working for other people too.”

Matt Hancock was allegedly told: “We’ve got a courier going to their family home tonight” (AFP via Getty Images)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer earlier urged the government not to “hide” behind the Covid inquiry and look into the matter immediately.

His spokesman said the government is “more than capable” of answering questions now to ensure “clarity and transparency”.

“There is absolutely no reason for that to need to be within the remit of the inquiry,” he told reporters, adding that the independent inquiry should also be free to look at it if it so chooses.

“To hide behind the inquiry at this stage seems bizarre from the government when it would be very easy for that information and those questions to be answered now.”

All the times Matt Hancock defended his Covid care home strategy

Downing Street had admitted there was “significant public interest” in the story.

“That’s why we have established an independent public inquiry that will look to establish the facts,” the prime minister’s official spokesman said.

“It’s not for me to look at individual claims put out.

The Liberal Democrats wrote to the prime minister to ask him what he knew and when regarding claims that ministers had access to “priority testing”.

Deputy Lib Dem leader Daisy Cooper said: “These reports are just more evidence that it’s one rule for Conservative ministers and another for everyone else.

“The government must urgently publish exactly how many Conservative ministers, MPs and their families had access to priority testing when the public faced a national test shortage. The public deserves to know the truth.”

Communications with other top Conservatives and politicians have also been placed in the spotlight by the leak.

Former chancellor George Osborne, at the time editor of the London Evening Standard, was quizzed by Mr Hancock about comments he had made during a radio interview about testing and the role of No 10.

Mr Osborne told the health secretary at the time: “Trying to spread the responsibility from you to Number 10 – I’ve said it before.”

Mr Hancock replied: “Ok but mass testing is going v well – I fear this looks like you asked for me to be overruled…”

The ex-chancellor replied: “No-one thinks testing is going well, Matt.”

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