Matt Hancock has told Piers Morgan he was not able to appear on Good Morning Britain (GMB) because of a ‘busy diary’.
The health secretary is the first Conservative MP to appear on GMB following a 201-day boycott which ended with over the weekend.
Ministers have shunned the show without an official explanation.
When confronted, Hancock explained ministers had been too ‘busy’ to attend the programme, saying: “I said I would come on as soon as the diaries allow and here I am so very happy to answer any questions.”
Morgan asked whether it was “right” for government ministers to avoid a major breakfast news programme during one of the worst national crises in 100 years.
“Did you support the boycott? Did you agree with it?” pressed Morgan.
Hancock responded: “Well, I’m here now to answer all the questions for your viewers.”
“Answer that one!” shouted co-host Susanna Reid.
The minister responded: “As I say, I was asked last week to come on as soon as I could and here I am”.
Piling pressure on the minister, Morgan said: “I literally just asked you a question which you didn’t answer… It’s an important question. Our viewers are all curious as to why you’ve all been away for six months from giving us updated information. What is the explanation?”
Hancock stumbled: “I’ve been working incredibly hard, for instance, building the testing capacity [of NHS Test and Trace], expanding the number of tests available and making progress on the vaccine and another good vaccine going into trial today.”
Morgan said the testing policy was “still a complete shambles” that had happened on Hancock’s watch.
He said: “Given that we now have over 50k deaths in this country which is the worth death toll in this country why are you still health secretary? Why haven’t you handed in your resignation?
“There has been a constant series of government failures and U-turns over this year, are you prepared to admit (to that)?”
Hancock defended the policy saying mass testing would help families visit residents in care homes by Christmas.
Hancock’s appearance follows the departure of Vote Leave advisers Lee Cain and Dominic Cummings from Downing Street.
Cain resigned as head of Downing Street communications on Wednesday while Cummings, the prime minister most senior adviser, was seen clearing his desk on Friday.
Reacting to a clip of the interview on Twitter, one user wrote: “Glad that’s been cleared up, good to see they still can’t answer a straight question, for a moment I thought there might be some sanity resumed in this government, glad I was wrong.”
Glad that's been cleared up, good to see they still can't answer a straight question, for a moment I thought there might be some sanity resumed in this government, glad I was wrong
— SlugButter (@SlugButter1) November 16, 2020
“Waffle and avoiding answering questions, what did we expect!” posted another.
Taking aim at Morgan, a third said: “We need to hear future plans. Government will be accountable later. Please let Matt Hancock advise plans way forward and speak!”