Matt Hancock sees red after MPs laugh at ‘undeliverable promises’ in House of Commons statement

PUBLISHED: 12:09 10 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:15 10 September 2020

Matt Hancock in the House of Commons. Photograph:  Parliament TV.

Matt Hancock in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.

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Matt Hancock has hit out at the ‘naysayers’ in the House of Commons, after his ministerial statement provoked laughter when he admitted the technology was not ready for his ambitious Operation Moonshot proposals.

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The health secretary has announced plans to allow people to lead more normal lives by Christmas, aiming to provide mass testing using saliva and other methods which can deliver results within 20 to 90 minutes.

But he said he would need to “verify” the technology before it could be rolled out nationally, after ministers conceded is not yet ready.


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Hancock’s statement prompted laughter from opposition benches after acknowledging there was work to do with the technology, leading to the minister to go “off-script” to hit out at the “naysayers”.

“I’m going to depart from my script there because I’ve heard the naysayers before and I’ve heard the people on the other side complain we’ll never get testing going – and they’re the same old voices.

“They opposed 100,000 tests and did we deliver that? Yes we did. They’re saying what about testing in care homes, well we delivered the test to care homes earlier this week.

“They are against everything that’s needed to sort this problem for this country and they’d do far better to support their constituents and get with the programme.

“I’m looking forward to rolling out this programme and this work, which has been under way for some time already, I’m absolutely determined that we will get there.

“And if everything comes together, and if the technology comes off, it’ll be possible even for challenging sectors like theatres to get closer to normal before Christmas.”

The moonshot proposals come as the current testing programme faces considerable criticism for struggling to meet demand.

Many people who tried to access a test on Wednesday were met with an error message telling them to try again, and warning them not to call the helplines.

And on Tuesday, NHS Test and Trace’s director of testing apologised to people who were unable to get a test.

Labour had criticised the statement which they said provided more “undeliverable promises”.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “We are all fed up of undelivered promises. Mass testing is too important to become another failed project.

“It’s all well and good (Hancock) talking about moonshots and the prime minister telling us we’ll be tested every morning, even better would be simply delivering the extra testing that is needed now, not just headline figures.”

But Hancock replied: “All we get is complaint after complaint rather than supporting his constituents and the people of this country in our quest to get through this virus.”

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