Prime minister Boris Johnson refused to tell MPs whether or not he fired his former health secretary Matt Hancock.
Speaking to the MPs on the liaison committee on 7 July, the prime minister’s comments follow the abrupt departure of Hancock, who was embroiled in a scandal following the publication of a video showing him kissing a colleague.
“We all read about the story concerning Mr Hancock and CCTV and so forth on Friday, and we had a new health secretary on Saturday,” said Johnson, after having been asked three times whether it was his decision to dismiss Hancock. “Considering that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, and it’s quite a thing to move your health secretary I think that was quite fast going”.
Hancock, who tendered his resignation on letter on 26 June, was replaced by Sajid Javid, a former banker who had been working as an adviser to JPMorgan since August 2020.
The video, which led to the downfall of Hancock, showed him kissing Gina Coladangelo, an old university friend who was employed as his adviser. It was reportedly recorded in early May when Hancock was advising the public to continue social distancing and avoid hugging others.
Javid kicked off his tenure as health secretary by saying it was his “immediate priority” to get the UK “out of this pandemic”.
His appointment comes as the UK sees a skyrocketing of coronavirus cases, fuelled by the highly transmissible Delta variant, which was first detected in India. Javid told MPs on 5 July that the variant now accounted for 95% of the cases across the country.
As of 5 July, 45 million people had received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, some 86% of the UK population, and 33 million of those people are fully vaccinated, according to the latest government figures.
Almost 29,000 people tested positive for Covid-19 on 6 July, figures showed, an increase of 49% over the previous seven days, and 37 people died within 28 days of a positive test.
The last step of the roadmap out of lockdown in England was pushed back from 21 June to 19 July. Johnson announced on 5 July that almost all social distancing measures, including mandatory mask wearing indoors and advice to work from home, will be lifted.
Javid has said that people need to “learn to live” with the virus.
At the hearing of MPs on 7 July, Johnson was also asked why the government’s Online Harms Bill had not taken measures to clamp down on fraudulent online investment adverts, as has been argued for by the Financial Conduct Authority, Bank of England and other authorities, according to a member of the liaison committee.
“I’m not aware that we are unable to do that,” Johnson said. “I’m very concerned that we should tackle fraud and I’m told the online bill does that.
“I’m told that the bill will tackle a wide range of content and will take a focused attempt to online fraud. One of the key objectives of the bill is to tackle online fraud.”
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