Starmer demands Covid inquiry reports by end of year amid Hancock messages furore


abour leader Keir Starmer has demanded the Covid inquiry release findings by the end of the year amid fresh criticism of former Health Secretary Matt Hancock over his pandemic response.

Mr Hancock was engulfed in a row over whether he rejected advice from one of England’s health chiefs at the start of the pandemic over testing people going into care homes.

Mr Hancock faced allegations in The Daily Telegraph, which obtained more than 100,000 WhatsApp messages between him, ministers and officials, that he had not followed the advice of England’s Chief Medical Officer Sir Chris Whitty. Mr Hancock furiously rejected the claims.

At Prime Minister’s Question’s on Wednesday, Mr Starmer said the messages were an “insulting and ghoulish spectacle” for families across the country who have lost loved ones.

The country “deserves better” he said, criticising the cost of the Covid inquiry so far.

Rishi Sunak insisted the coronavirus inquiry was the “right way” to investigate the Government’s handling of the pandemic rather than relying on “piecemeal bits of information”.

Mr Starmer had earlier attacked Mr Sunak over the “shocking state” the Tories had left the country in during cost of living crisis.

Following PMQs, health minister Helen Whately faced an urgent question from Labour on testing of care home residents during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She told MPs the “importance of testing was never in doubt” but added “tough decisions about prioritisation had to be made”.


Don’t create drama, Sunak pleads

Rishi Sunak has told Tory MPs to give the DUP “time and space” to consider his Northern Ireland Brexit deal as they were warned it is the best offer they will get.

The Prime Minister said he was “confident” they would back it as he urged colleagues not to create another “Westminster drama”.

But Conservatives were waiting with “bated breath” to see if the DUP will back the Windsor Framework, which is hoped to restore powersharing to Stormont after a year-long absence.

Read more here.


Hancock disputes ‘distorted’ WhatsApp leak

Matt Hancock says claims that he rejected advice to give Covid tests to all residents going into English care homes is a “distorted account”.

A spokesperson for the former Health Secretary said more than 100,000 leaked WhatsApp messages have been “spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda”.

A Telegraph investigation claims chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty told Mr Hancock in April 2020 there should be testing for “all going into care homes”.

But the messages suggest he rejected the guidance, telling an aide the move just “muddies the waters”.

Read more here.

Matt Hancock

/ PA Wire


Labour granted Urgent Question after Hancock leak

The Speaker has granted Labour an Urgent Question ahead of PMQs this afternoon, Sky News is reporting.

It’s in relation to allegations that Matt Hancock rejected advice to test all English care residents for Covid during the pandemic.

Mr Hancock says the messages have been taken out of context.

The Urgent Question will take place after PMQs, at around 12.30pm.


Labour claims Govt wasted £26.8bn under Sunak’s watch

Labour has claimed Rishi Sunak oversaw “wasteful” government spending and departmental losses that cost the taxpayer up to £26.8 billion.

The party compiled a dossier of the “extensive waste” under Mr Sunak during his time as Chancellor and as Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2021-22 and 2019-20.

The list includes examples of sums lost due to fraud and faulty PPE during the pandemic, through poorly-planned defence procurement and on private consultancy fees.

Read more here.

Hospital staff in personal protective equipment (PPE)

/ PA Archive


Number of children in food poverty nearly doubles in a year

The number of households with children experiencing food poverty has nearly doubled in the past year, the Food Foundation revealed, affecting almost four million children.

Among families experiencing food poverty, more than three quarters reported being worried about the impact it has on their children’s physical and mental health.

Around 80 per cent of British people support the expansion of free school meals to all children on Universal Credit, as pressure grows for the Government to do so.

Read more here.

Mandeville Primary School Associate students who receive a free school meal

/ Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd


Pictured: Rishi Sunak leaves No 10


PMQs shortly underway

Prime Minister’s Questions will shortly be underway in the House of Commons.

It will begin at midday.


UK families to become poorer than Polish families, Starmer says

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the average family in Britain will be poorer than the average family in Poland by 2030.

Rishi Sunak said the energy crisis, as a result of an “illegal war” in Ukraine is to blame, but the Government is paying over half of a typical household energy bill, saving households £1,000.

He said it’s one of the most generous support packages globally, and called on Mr Starmer to “back our plan to halve inflation”.


‘Only one party that broke the economy’

Rishi Sunak said 400,000 global CEOs ranked the UK as their number one European investment destination, according to a new survey.

The Prime Minister said Labour should back the Government’s minimum service levels.

But Sir Keir Starmer said: “There’s only party that broke the economy and they’re sitting there”, as he pointed to the Tories.


PM asked to increase housing supply

Sir Keir Starmer asked the Prime Minister if he would bring back planning reforms to increase housing supply.

Rishi Sunak said there is “recordly high housebuilding” under his Government, and a record number of first-time buyers in 20 years.

He said Labour’s policy to oppose any new oil and gas licences in the North Sea is “absurd”.

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