Whitehall’s top official recommended to Boris Johnson that health secretary Matt Hancock should be fired over coronavirus failings, Dominic Cummings has claimed.
The prime minister’s former adviser said there were around 20 reasons why Hancock should have been given the sack – including, he claimed, lying both in Cabinet room meetings and publicly.
He said Hancock performed “disastrously” below the standards expected and the cabinet secretary – the country’s top civil servant – had recommended the Health Secretary should be sacked.
Cummings claimed that while Donald Trump was ordering the CIA to “gazump” rival countries on orders for personal protective equipment (PPE), the Department of Health was still trying to get orders from China by ship.
“I think the secretary of state for health should’ve 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,” Cummings said.
“There’s no doubt at all that many senior people performed far, far disastrously below the standards which the country has a right to expect. I think the secretary of state for health is certainly one of those people.
“I said repeatedly to the prime minister that he should be fired, so did the cabinet secretary, so did many other senior people.”
Sir Mark Sedwill was the cabinet secretary until September 2020, a period which covered the first phase of the pandemic.
Cummings has previously described Hancock’s department as a “smoking ruin” which could not cope with the demands of the pandemic.
“There were lots of great people in it but the procurement system which they were operating was just completely hopeless,” he said.
“There wasn’t any system set up to deal with proper emergency procurement.”
At a meeting on March 27, Cummings said he was told by officials that the DHSC had been turning down ventilators because the price had been marked up – “it completely beggars belief that sort of thing was happening”.
On PPE, Cummings said he was told in meetings that vital masks and gloves were being sent by sea because it is “what we always do”.
Cummings said: “Hang on, we are going to have a peak in the NHS around about mid-April, and you are shipping things from China that are going to arrive in months’ time and all the aeroplanes are not flying? Leave this meeting, commandeer the planes, fly them to China, drop them at the nearest airfield, pick up our stuff, fly it back.
“At this point you had Trump sending the CIA round trying to gazump everybody on PPE.
“The whole system was just like wading through treacle.”
He said the cabinet secretary said the government had to “divvy up” the health secretary’s job because there were “multiple huge things here that were all being dropped”.
On the claim that Hancock lied, Cummings said: “There are numerous examples.
“In the summer he said that everybody who needed treatment got the treatment they required. He knew that that was a lie because he had been briefed by the chief scientific adviser and the chief medical officer himself about the first peak.
“We were told explicitly people did not get the treatment they deserved, many people were left to die in horrific circumstances.”
Hancock had also blamed NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens and chancellor Rishi Sunak for PPE problems.
Cummings said he asked the cabinet secretary to investigate, who came back and said “it is completely untrue, I have lost confidence in the secretary of state’s honesty in these meetings”.