Matt Hancock has said he has no problem breaching laws surrounding the issuing of contracts again if he were the health minister during another public health emergency.
The breach applied to “a substantial number of cases” – 217 out of 520 relevant contracts leading up to October 2020.
A National Audit Office report found No 10 had set up a “high-priority” lane for firms recommended by “government officials, ministers’ offices, MPs and members of the House of Lords, senior NHS staff and other health professionals”.
On Sunday, Hancock insisted that his department had published “all the details we’re required to publish and that’s been happening all the way through”.
But on Tuesday, he said he would breach the law again if needed.
He told Sky News: “We accepted in full that these things were published a fortnight late. That isn’t in dispute.
“We argued the public interest defence – it’s in the national interest that we did what we did.”
“Sure, if we weren’t able to put the paperwork in on time – in normal times of course we’d put the paperwork in on time.
“But in the middle of a global pandemic, you don’t.
“You can ask me as many questions as you like, you’re not going to change my view.
“And if I had my time again, absolutely I would do exactly the same thing, exactly the same thing, even if it led to this conversation.
“Because what I care about is making sure people have the protection they need.”
Shadow health minister Justin Madders hit back: “Knowing a minister shouldn’t stop you getting a contract but neither should it mean you get preferential treatment in a VIP lane.
“He should apologise for breaking the law. He should apologise for allowing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) stockpiles to dwindle. He should apologise for leaving Health and Social care staff without PPE.
“He should apologise for the worst death toll in Europe. There is plenty for him to apologise for.”
The minister’s comment comes on the back of a fiery interview with Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain over the issue.
Hancock said: “If I were given my time again and given the choice between doing work that saved lives or filing paperwork on the right date, I’d have done the same.”
Interrupting, Morgan shouted: “Hang on, you could do both can’t you? Surely you can try to get PPE which we were short of, and also ensure your department doesn’t break the law.”