MATT Hancock has said that it was just a coincidence that around £2 billion worth of contracts were handed by his Health Department to firms linked with Tory party members or donors.

The UK Government’s Health Secretary was speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland (GMS) when he was asked about the High Court ruling his department had acted unlawfully in failing to publish details of billions of pounds' worth of coronavirus-related contracts within the required time.

The Tory minister elsewhere claimed that the court case “did not need to happen” as it had not “had any material impact”.

When Good Morning Britain (GMB) host Piers Morgan said the public should not expect Tory ministers to obey the law and apologise if they broke it, Hancock said that was a “fair summary of the situation”.

Doing a morning media round which saw him appear on GMS, GMB, Sky News, BBC Radio 4, and BBC Breakfast, Hancock repeatedly said that his staff were working non-stop on the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) early in the pandemic, and so did not have the time to fulfil their legal obligations.

On GMS, the host asked if the failure to publish contracts within the required legal time, combined with the shortages of PPE that the UK faced during the early stages of the first lockdown, meant the Health Secretary had “failed on both fronts”.

Hancock replied: “No, we did everything we possibly could to keep people safe and my team are an amazing team of people and they all did an extraordinary job.

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“None of them took their jobs in anticipation of having to source PPE in the middle of a global pandemic.”

He said that his staff “absolutely” understood their legal obligations, but that he “absolutely backed [his] officials in spending all of their time buying PPE to keep people safe”.

The host then said: “£2 billion of contracts have been linked to party members or donors to the Conservative party. Would we need an inquiry into what’s happened here?”

In response, Hancock claimed that “we’ve had one” and the National Audit Office (NAO) found “nothing untoward”.

The Health Secretary was then asked if it is “just a coincidence that they’re Tory donors?”

“Yes,” he said. “What I cared about was getting PPE and getting it to the front line. I’m sure you’ll agree with that, that the right thing to do was buy PPE because demand had understandably gone up tenfold … We were all pushing as hard as we could to buy PPE and I’m sure that was the right thing to do.”

The National Audit Office’s “Investigation into government procurement during the Covid-19 pandemic” was published on November 26, 2020 and covered the period up till July 31 that same year.

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It found “a lack of transparency and adequate documentation of some key decisions, such as why particular suppliers were chosen or how government identified and managed potential conflicts of interest ... Some contracts were awarded after work had already begun, and many were not published in the timeframe they should have been.”

NAO boss Gareth Davies said at the time: “While we recognise that these were exceptional circumstances, it remains essential that decisions are properly documented and made transparent if government is to maintain public trust that taxpayers’ money is being spent appropriately and fairly.

“The evidence set out in our report shows that these standards of transparency and documentation were not consistently met in the first phase of the pandemic.”

Hancock also answered questions around his department’s handing out of Covid-related contracts on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The host there told the Health Secretary that “people are concerned about the contracts themselves”.

“What, I wanted to ask you, what first attracted your friend who’s a pub landlord to the opportunity to make millions of pounds making protective equipment for the NHS, something he had never made before?”

“Well, I don’t know,” Hancock responded. “And obviously there was a massive shortage of a huge amount of items … and my team bought PPE from all over the place.”

Alex Bourne, who used to run a pub near Matt Hancock’s constituency home, said he initially offered his services by messaging the Health Secretary via WhatsApp. However, Hancock denied that he had anything to do with the awarding of a contract to Bourne.

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The former landlord’s company, Hinpack, was at that time producing plastic cups and takeaway boxes for the catering industry. It is now supplying around two million medical grade vials a week to the government and NHS.

Appearing on Sky News during his media round this morning, Hancock contradicted his own claims of “massive shortages” made on Radio 4. On Sky he insisted such national shortages had never happened, despite “difficulties in individual areas”.

Pressed on cronyism by that broadcaster, Hancock asked: “Are you saying that if you know a minister then you shouldn’t be allowed to have contracts?”

He again pointed to the NAO investigation, claiming that it had found no issues with any contracts awarded. The host said it has also refused to rule out criminality, a point Hancock pushed past insisting he was answering the previous question.

The Health Secretary further claimed the court case which had found him in breach of his legal obligations “did not need to happen” as it had not “had any material impact”.

The National: Matt Hancock was met with incredulity when he claimed the court case against him had had no impactMatt Hancock was met with incredulity when he claimed the court case against him had had no impact

The host pointed out that the case had forced Hancock to accept his department’s legal failings, and read a quote from the judge which said: “I have no doubt the claim has speeded up compliance.”

Appearing on Good Morning Britain, Hancock refused to apologise for the ongoing scandal, and agreed that the public should not expect Cabinet ministers to apologise when found to have broken the law.

On that programme the Health Secretary was also admonished for saying people should be "thanking" his team, despite them overseeing the worst death toll from the coronavirus in all of Europe

The UK has seen almost 130,000 deaths with Covid-19 on the death certificate.