WHEN Matt Hancock agreed to a Sunday morning media round yesterday, he will have been looking forward to being asked about the success of the vaccine rollout. Across the UK, one in three adults has already had the jag.

As the UK Government prepares to set out its roadmap for easing lockdown in England with a statement from the Prime Minister today, his Health Secretary must surely be feeling more positive than he has in months. Unfortunately for Hancock, the events of recent days upended any plans he had for feel-good interviews. Sophy Ridge from Sky News got straight to the point, asking him: “Will you resign?”

Hancock, you won’t be surprised to learn, said he will not resign over his department’s handling of pandemic response contracts.

On Friday, a judge ruled the Health Secretary had acted unlawfully when his department failed to reveal details of the contracts it had signed during the pandemic.

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In a case spearheaded by the campaign group the Good Law Project and MPs including Caroline Lucas, the department was accused of “wholesale failure” to divulge details of the contracts that had been agreed. They also claimed the UK Government was in breach of its own policy on transparency in public contracts worth more than £10,000.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Chamberlain said: “There is now no dispute that, in a substantial number of cases, the Secretary of State breached his legal obligation to publish contract award notices within 30 days of the award of contracts.

“There is also no dispute that the Secretary of State failed to publish redacted contracts in accordance with the transparency policy.”

While this is not a sexy scandal, it is an important story. It is illustrative of the way the UK Government has at times sought to avoid proper scrutiny during the pandemic.

You need only look to its woefully inadequate approach to televised briefings to see how little importance it places on being open with the public about its decision-making process.

Instead of a regular schedule of appearances from the Prime Minister, we’ve seen big updates trailed ahead of their implementation, often leaked the night before to the Government’s favoured journalists.

If Hancock feels any contrition for his department’s unlawful actions and the £200,000 of public money his department wasted on fighting the case in court, he did a good job of hiding it yesterday.

Aside from the matter of whether he would resign or if he should be sacked, Hancock point-blank refused to even apologise. Instead, he deployed a rather lame diversionary tactic in seeking to shift the focus on to ordinary workers in his department.

“Of course I won’t blame my hard-working department for trying to save lives! I stand by them,” was the refrain, despite the fact it was his leadership and his actions that he was being asked to explain and take accountability for.

It was as unconvincing a deflection as his emphasis on why the UK Government needed to act quickly to procure the PPE needed to protect health and social care workers.

Nobody is quibbling about the desire to or importance of speeding up the procurement process of necessary supplies during a health crisis. But this judgment and why it is so damning for Hancock cannot be viewed in isolation.

The National Audit Office has been also been critical of the UK Government’s approach to procurement. A report by the spending watchdog raised concerns about a Government unit which established a high-priority lane to deal with leads from Government officials, ministers’ offices members of the House of Lords and MPs.

Almost 500 companies that were given priority due to their connections secured contracts – with nearly 10 times the success rate of companies who weren’t in the “high-priority” lane.

As this paper reported last week, contracts went to people including Alex Bourne – Matt Hancock’s former neighbour – who won a £30 million deal to provide millions of Covid-19 test vials after he sent the Health Secretary a WhatsApp message.

Perhaps one of the reasons that Hancock was so bullish in the face of criticism yesterday was that he feels insulated from his failings by the UK Government’s own low standards. Of course he won’t resign.

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He might be shuffled out during the next reshuffle but he won’t be sacked. To do either would be to admit a degree of failure or malpractice. And we know that the UK Government prefers to brazen out its mistakes than to admit culpability for them.

This leads us to an uncomfortable truth. A judge has ruled the Health Secretary has acted unlawfully, yet there is wide acceptance that – aside from a few mildly uncomfortable interviews – the matter is now closed.

The story hasn’t been given the prominence in the media that it would have in ordinary times. Unless the Health Secretary has an unexpected fit of conscience or a high-profile Tory speaks out against him, it is likely that the story will fall off the media agenda entirely this week.

That’s good news for the Prime Minister and his law-breaking Minister but bad news for the rest of us.