Hancock criticised after telling MP and A&E doctor to reconsider ‘tone’ over coronavirus questions

PUBLISHED: 14:56 05 May 2020 | UPDATED: 18:24 05 May 2020

Matt Hancock and Dr Rosena Allin-Khan clash at the despatch box over coronavirus testing. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Matt Hancock and Dr Rosena Allin-Khan clash at the despatch box over coronavirus testing. Photograph: Parliament TV.

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Matt Hancock has been criticised after telling a Labour MP, who serves as an A&E doctor, to reconsider her ‘tone’ after she questioned the government’s approach to coronavirus.

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Rosena Allin-Khan speaks in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.Rosena Allin-Khan speaks in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour’s shadow mental health minister, used her appearance at the despatch box to question the government’s strategy in tackling coronavirus, which she said some frontline workers feared was costing lives.

Standing in front of health secretary Hancock, she said: “Frontline workers like me have had to watch families break into pieces as we deliver the very worst of news to them, that the ones they love most in this world have died.

“The testing strategy has been nonexistent. Community testing was scrapped, mass testing was slow to roll out and testing figures are now being manipulated.”

The serving A&E doctor added: “Many frontline workers feel that the government’s lack of testing has cost lives and is responsible for many families being unnecessarily torn apart in grief.”

Allin-Khan continued: “Does the Secretary of State commit to a minimum of 100,000 tests each day going forward? And does the Secretary of State acknowledge that many frontline workers feel that the government’s lack of testing has cost lives?”

But a tetchy Hancock suggested the Tooting MP should change her “tone” and to approach the session like shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth had done so prior to her appearance.

He said: “I welcome the honourable lady to her post as part of the shadow health team.

“I think she might do well to take a leaf out of the shadow secretary of state’s book in terms of tone.

Matt Hancock responds to Rosena Allin-Khan on coronavirus testing in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.Matt Hancock responds to Rosena Allin-Khan on coronavirus testing in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.

“I’m afraid what she said is not true. There’s been a rapid acceleration in testing over the last few months, including getting to 100,000 tests a day.”

Before rising to her feet Alin-Khan had been praised by House of Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle “for what you and all your staff do in the NHS saving lives”.

She later tweeted in response to the health secretary, saying: “I will not ‘watch my tone’ when dozens of NHS and care staff are dying unnecessarily. Families are being torn apart.”

Sky News journalist Alex Crawford responded: “This ticking off for daring to question possible errors as UK becomes the European country with the highest coronavirus death toll seems just bizarre and not a little frigging frightening.”


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Daily Mirror political editor Pippa Crear wrote: “She was doing her job. One of them. The other one is working as an A&E doctor during the coronavirus crisis. I would gently suggest that it’s Matt Hancock who has got his tone wrong on this one.”

Fellow Labour shadow minister Jess Phillips tweeted: “Her tone was fine, respectful, and might I dare say her view is more knowledgeable about the front line than the health secretary. Can’t imagine why he doesn’t like her “tone”. (obviously I can well imagine)”.

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