In devastating evidence delivered over seven hours to an inquiry into lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Cummings said he believed the health secretary ‘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’.
He told the joint inquiry by the House of Commons science and technology committee and the health and social care committee that although senior government figures had been assured that plans were in place to deal with a pandemic, there was ‘no plan’.
On key elements of the response to the pandemic such as testing and shielding no plans were in place – and shielding measures were ‘hacked together in two all-nighters’, he told MPs.
Mr Cummings said the government and senior officials including himself ‘fell disastrously short of the standards the public has a right to expect in a crisis like this’ – and that tens of thousands of people had died unnecessarily, offering an apology to the families of people who had lost their lives.
The PM’s former adviser said Mr Hancock was ‘certainly one’ of the senior figures in government who had performed ‘disastrously’ below the level needed in the pandemic.
Mr Cummings told the inquiry: ‘I said repeatedly to the PM that he should be fired, so did the cabinet secretary so did many other senior people.’
He told the joint inquiry led by the House of Commons science and technology committee and the health and social care committee that there were ‘numerous examples’ of lying by the health and social care secretary.
Mr Cummings told MPs: ‘In summer he said everyone who needed treatment got the treatment they required. He knew that was a lie because he had been briefed by the chief scientific officer and the chief medical officer himself about the first peak and we were told explicitly people did not get the treatment they deserved. Many people were left to die in horrific circumstances.’
He added that shortly before he and Mr Johnson tested positive for COVID-19, Mr Hancock had told the cabinet that ‘everything is fine on PPE’. However, when he returned to work after recovering from the infection, Mr Cummings said: ‘Almost the first meeting in I had in the cabinet room was on the disaster of PPE and how we were completely short and hospitals all over the country were running out.
‘The secretary of state said in that meeting that this is the fault of [NHS chief executive] Simon Stevens, and the chancellor of the exchequer – it is not my fault, they have blocked approvals on all sorts of things.’
Mr Cummings told the inquiry that Cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill had then investigated this claim. ‘He came back to me and said it is completely untrue – I have lost confidence in the secretary of state’s honesty in these meetings.’
Prime minister’s questions
At prime ministers questions in the House of Commons, Mr Johnson denied he had been told by the cabinet secretary that he had lost faith in Mr Hancock’s honesty.
A statement from joint inquiry chairs Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark said: ‘As part of our joint parliamentary inquiry into lessons learnt from the government’s response to the pandemic, it has been important to hear about decisions taken by Downing Street at the outset to deal with the threat from COVID-19.
‘We will review the evidence given by Dominic Cummings today and will publish relevant documents we accept as evidence in due course. Secretary of state Matt Hancock will appear before us next month when we will have a further opportunity to explore steps taken by ministers and the outcomes.’
GPonline has approached the DHSC for comment.