Hancock used as ‘human shield’ for failing Grayling

Transport secretary Chris Grayling. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Transport secretary Chris Grayling. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Labour has accused the government of using the health secretary as a 'human shield' to protect the transport secretary Chris Grayling.

Despite it being Grayling's department that were taken to court by Eurotunnel over no-deal Brexit ferry contracts, it was Matt Hancock who was sent to the despatch box to answer questions.

It prompted the opposition to claim Hancock was 'acting as a human shield' for Grayling, who has faced repeated calls to resign over the handling of the ferry contract, which involved handing the job to a business without ships.

Downing Street said that Theresa May continues to have full confidence in Grayling.

Asked why the Transport Secretary was not answering a question from his Labour shadow about ferry contracts, May's official spokesman told the Press Association: 'The settlement with Eurotunnel was a cross-government decision, as the provision of freight capacity was largely designed to secure the ongoing supply of crucial medicines, medical supplies and veterinary medicines.

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They added: 'So it's entirely appropriate for the health secretary to answer the question.'

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald, said: 'Chris Grayling's incompetence has reached the point that he's been ordered into hiding.

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'It's not enough for the prime minister just to bench him. Grayling has wasted billions of pounds of taxpayers money and unleashed chaos on every department that's had the misfortune of having him.

'If Theresa May had any authority left she'd sack him.'

The Labour Whips Office described the decision to put Hancock forward to answer McDonald's question on the floor of the Commons as 'extraordinary'.

'The government have confirmed that Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, will be acting as a human shield for Chris Grayling,' the Labour whips tweeted.

'When you are unwilling, or the government are not prepared to field you, to face the scrutiny of your peers and explain why the department you lead has had to pay £33 million of taxpayers money, you know the game is up.'

And shadow transport minister Karl Turner tweeted: 'Surely it's game over for #FailingGrayling?

'Government are putting up health secretary Matt Hancock to answer the Urgent Question as to why he, Mr Grayling has urinated £33 million up the wall, and against advice from all sides, we know it's over now!?'

Grayling's catalogue of controversies gained international recognition in a New York Times article questioning how he survives.

The piece said: 'He has bumbled his way from one government post to another, accused of making a hash of each, and becoming a byword for haplessness in a golden age of political blundering in Britain.'

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