In a voice quivering with indignation, the senior Tory MP on the tip of the road mentioned he had one thing quite startling to inform me – and he was emphatically sure of the small print. ‘I saw him,’ he exclaimed. ‘I saw the Health Secretary, the person telling the remainder of the nation find out how to behave, flouting his personal Covid curfew guidelines.’
A day earlier, mentioned my mole scarcely capable of conceive of the scene earlier than him, he had witnessed Matt Hancock ingesting in a Commons bar previous the 10pm curfew. Indeed, he advised me the Health Secretary was still there as late as 10.25pm.
Mr Hancock, the Cabinet Minister most decided to pile ever extra restrictions upon the remainder of us? The exact same, mentioned the supply. And what’s extra, he was doing so in per week of mounting fury that the 10pm rule was crippling pubs and eating places, threatening to place many out of enterprise.
There was one thing else, mentioned the MP. Mr Hancock had first waltzed into the plush, wood-panelled Smoking Room bar for his sneaky tipple with a joke on his lips, a tasteless one at that.
In a voice quivering with indignation, the senior Tory MP on the tip of the road mentioned he had one thing quite startling to inform me (writes Brendan Carlin) – and he was emphatically sure of the small print. ‘I saw him,’ he exclaimed. ‘I saw the Health Secretary, the person telling the remainder of the nation find out how to behave, flouting his personal Covid curfew guidelines’
Down the many years, the bar has been recognized for its conviviality and spirited discourse – a spot the place political giants held court docket in armchairs that had as soon as belonged to William Gladstone. One memorable evening, Winston Churchill and Nye Bevan hotly debated which was probably the most decisive interval in British historical past. The Reformation, argued Winston; the Civil War, insisted Nye.
But on Monday, October 5, based on my supply, Mr Hancock – not necessrily many individuals’s thought of a political large – was nursing a glass of Commons own-brand Sauvignon Blanc and behaving ‘like a pantomime dame’, merrily making gentle of the possibly disastrous lack of 16,000 optimistic virus checks simply hours after sorrowfully telling the Commons how the blunder ought to by no means have occurred.
‘The drinks are on me – however Public Health England are in cost of the cost methodology so I cannot be paying something,’ Mr Hancock is mentioned to have wisecracked.
The whistle-blowing MP’s cellphone name to me got here at shortly after 6pm the next day – and he hasn’t modified a phrase of his testimony since.
We first put our inquiries to Mr Hancock’s particular adviser shortly after 10am final Saturday morning in a phone name adopted up with an in depth e-mail. He took 5 hours to come back again with a solution.
It got here in the type of a press release, terse, legalistic and really fastidiously phrased. ‘The proposed timeline of occasions is false and no guidelines have been damaged,’ it insisted. ‘The Secretary of State was in the Smoking Room previous to the vote that night. The Secretary of State left the Smoking Room to vote. The vote befell at 9.42pm. The Secretary of State then departed the Parliamentary property to go residence.’
But the assertion contained one apparent gaping gap – the wriggle room so beloved of politicians. Did Mr Hancock return to the bar earlier than he went residence? And what concerning the tasteless joke, which the assertion ignored fully?
We reported how Mr Hancock arrived on the MPs-only bar simply earlier than a 9.40pm vote on Monday, October 5, ordered a glass of white wine (file picture) and made a tasteless joke about Public Health England dropping almost 16,000 optimistic coronavirus checks
Last Saturday, we instantly went again to Hancock’s particular adviser looking for clarification on these issues, however we obtained no response.
Our deadline got here and went however we had been still capable of run a hard-hitting front-page story which led to an inquiry into the incident, with questions being requested on the highest stage in the Commons.
The Mail on Sunday has now contacted Mr Hancock’s workplace 30 instances looking for straight solutions – to no avail. Only thrice did Mr Hancock’s spokesman reply, every time merely referring us again to the unique assertion.
No 10, in the meantime, has remained notably silent. One observer likened Downing Street’s response to the affair final weekend to that of a rubbernecking driver crawling previous a automobile crash, commenting ‘oh, that appears nasty’ – however failing to intervene. Instead, it left Hancock’s advisers to attempt to bluff their means by means of it alone.
On a number of events over the previous week, I’ve gone again to the senior MP. Could he be mistaken? Absolutely not. He was 100 per cent sure of his information – and furious at what he saw as Hancock’s dissembling.
Last Tuesday – 48 hours after our unique story – there was an intriguing growth. An indication immediately appeared in the Smoking Room declaring: ‘Last orders at 9.45pm. Venue to be vacated by 10pm.’
Was this an indirect touch upon the Hancock affair? In different phrases, did he get a drink in earlier than the 10pm curfew and stick with it quaffing past it?
In current weeks, Hancock has confronted intense strain over the perceived serial incompetence of his division, not simply from Labour however from Tory MPs satisfied he is an economy-destroying ‘lockdown fanatic’.
One main medic accused him of ‘responding to reasoned argument with petulant contempt’ – an outline that might simply apply to this case.
Over the previous week, The Mail on Sunday has spoken to different Tory MPs who had been in the bar that Monday evening. They privately admitted that ingesting had gone on previous 10pm however wouldn’t be drawn on whether or not Mr Hancock was then in the bar.
Mr Hancock himself was again on the Dispatch Box on Tuesday afternoon, presenting a really perfect alternative for Opposition MPs to problem him over the curfew row. None did.
Lib Dem well being spokesperson Munira Wilson – who had strongly condemned Mr Hancock’s reported joke on the weekend – at the very least dared to notice that he ‘was making jokes about [testing failures] in the Smoking Room, apparently’.
Privately, Tory MPs say Hancock allies had been pleading his innocence to them, moaning that he had been ‘stitched up’.
Since Tuesday night, now we have additionally been giving the Health Secretary the chance to disclaim making the joke however he has failed to take action.
On Wednesday, Charles Walker, the Tory chairman of the Commons Administration Committee which oversees the bars, confirmed to this newspaper that MPs had been certainly ingesting previous 10pm in the Smoking Room the earlier Monday. But this was a responsible verdict with a distinction – no named culprits.
Mr Walker lamely insisted it could have been unfair – ‘invidious’ even – to have requested employees to determine which MPs had been knocking it again after hours.
On Thursday, as if to forestall any additional breach of the foundations, the Speaker introduced that from this weekend, there can be an entire ban on all alcohol gross sales in Commons bars. Farcically, although, MPs will still have the ability get a drink – by popping down the hall to the Lords, which has no such ban.
Meanwhile, Mr Hancock’s spokesman maintains his radio silence.
In a quaint Westminster custom, Commons doorkeepers on the shut of every day’s enterprise shout: ‘Who goes residence?’
In Mr Hancock’s case, they could consider noting the time.
OFFICIAL: MPs DID flout 10pm bar curfew however Matt Hancock refused 30 TIMES to say if he was amongst them as House of Commons bosses are accused of a cover-up
By BRENDAN CARLIN and ANNA MIKHAILOVA for the Mail on Sunday
House of Commons bosses are immediately accused of a cover-up after admitting MPs broke a strict Covid ingesting curfew – however failing to say if Matt Hancock was amongst them.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that an official inquiry has confirmed our revelations final week that MPs drank their well past the nationwide 10pm deadline in a Commons bar.
But in a rare lapse, officers did not ask if the Health Secretary was concerned – regardless of the claims of a senior Tory MP that he was there.
Mr Hancock is immediately below mounting strain to come back clear about his actions after the witness insisted: ‘I stand 100 per cent by my story. I do know what I saw, and when.’
Yet the Health Secretary has refused 30 instances to say whether or not he returned to the Commons Smoking Room bar after a 9.40pm vote.
House of Commons bosses are immediately accused of a cover-up after admitting MPs broke a strict Covid ingesting curfew – however failing to say if Matt Hancock was amongst them
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that an official inquiry has confirmed our revelations final week that MPs drank their well past the nationwide 10pm deadline in a Commons bar. But in a rare lapse, officers did not ask if the Health Secretary was concerned – regardless of the claims of a senior Tory MP that he was there
Last evening, former Labour MP John Mann mentioned of the restricted Commons inquiry: ‘This does smack of a cover-up. We in Parliament have an obligation to respect the foundations we lay down for everybody in the nation. But greater than that, now we have an obligation to be seen to be respecting the foundations.’
However, Charles Walker, the senior Tory MP who led the curfew probe, final evening claimed it could have been ‘invidious’ to have requested Commons bar employees to call the MPs ingesting previous 10pm.
The scandal brewed as:
- Tighter guidelines kicked in for greater than ten million folks in England as areas moved up a tier in the brand new alert system;
- Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt confronted a fierce backlash after backing the concept of a so-called circuit-breaker lockdown lasting two or three weeks – with scientists divided over whether or not such a transfer can be price doing;
- The UK recorded 16,171 new coronavirus circumstances yesterday, up six per cent on the earlier Saturday, and 150 deaths, bringing the whole to 43,579;
- Reports mentioned police will likely be given entry to the small print of people who find themselves purported to be self-isolating whereas the NHS tracing app suffered extra technical issues;
- Experts warned that plans to maneuver aged hospital sufferers into particular Covid-positive care properties will create ‘hothouses’ of an infection;
- Sources mentioned Chancellor Rishi Sunak was fearful that caving into Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham’s demand for additional cash if the town was to be plunged into stricter Tier 3 lockdown might saddle the Treasury with enormous payments if different components of the nation make comparable calls for;
- University union chief Jo Grady was criticised after accusing Ministers of a ‘perverse obsession’ with Christmas amid a campus lockdown row;
- Hospitality business consultants warned of a staggering 750,000 potential job losses by February;
- Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson revealed his eldest brother had died of Covid-19;
- Pubs, eating places and cafes in Northern Ireland saw their first weekend of a four-week ban on sit-in prospects;
- Wales was set to announce two weeks of tighter restrictions.
The Mail on Sunday final week revealed astonishing claims that the Health Secretary had breached his personal curfew by ingesting in the Smoking Room bar after 10pm.
We reported how Mr Hancock arrived on the MPs-only bar simply earlier than a 9.40pm vote on Monday, October 5, ordered a glass of white wine and made a tasteless joke about Public Health England dropping almost 16,000 optimistic coronavirus checks.
Last evening, former Labour MP John Mann (above) mentioned of the restricted Commons inquiry: ‘This does smack of a cover-up. We in Parliament have an obligation to respect the foundations we lay down for everybody in the nation. But greater than that, now we have an obligation to be seen to be respecting the foundations’
‘The drinks are on me – however Public Health England are in cost of the cost methodology so I cannot be paying something,’ he was heard to say.
In a fastidiously worded assertion issued on his behalf, the Health Secretary made no try to deny that he made the joke.
He has additionally admitted being in the Smoking Room that evening however claims ‘no guidelines have been damaged’ and claimed he ‘departed the parliamentary property to go residence’ after participating in a Commons vote at 9.40pm.
However, his spokesman has declined to reply the easy query: did he return to the bar earlier than he left for residence?
Since Mr Hancock’s solely formal assertion to this newspaper final weekend, now we have despatched his spokesman 30 additional requests for remark together with twice each day emails and twice each day WhatsApp messages.
The spokesman replied simply thrice, to say solely: ‘I’d refer you again to the earlier assertion that I supplied.’
Mr Walker, chairman of the Commons Administration Committee, confirmed that some MPs broke the foundations, saying: ‘It occurred and it shouldn’t have occurred… it does appear there have been drinks being consumed after 10pm on that Monday evening in the Smoking Room.’
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (pictured) yesterday banned alcohol gross sales in all Commons shops. But earlier in the week, authorities reacted to the curfew breach by putting in a brand new signal in the bar setting out the curfew guidelines
He harassed that the foundations then in place in the Commons – in line with the curfew for all pubs and eating places – had been that bars ought to be empty of individuals ingesting alcohol by 10pm. But he defended the choice to not determine which MPs have been responsible, saying it could have been ‘invidious’ to ask Common employees to take action.
However, Sir Alistair Graham – former chairman of the Committee on Standards In Public Life – mentioned: ‘I do not know that ought to be so. If they’re attempting to use guidelines in a rigorous means, why should not they ask the employees which MPs they had been serving?’
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle yesterday banned alcohol gross sales in all Commons shops. But earlier in the week, authorities reacted to the curfew breach by putting in a brand new signal in the bar setting out the curfew guidelines.
However, one supply complained that some MPs may ignore employees ‘as a result of they see themselves as senior to them’.
Mail on Sunday remark
Here is a quite simple query, to which the reply is both ‘sure’ or ‘no’. It runs: ‘Did Health Secretary Matt Hancock return to the House of Commons Smoking Room after going to vote at 9.40pm on Monday, October 5?’
The Mail on Sunday has put this to Mr Hancock virtually 30 instances in the previous week, and has obtained no such reply.
This is the identical Matt Hancock who points the decrees which have shut or brutally restricted eating places and pubs up and down the nation, wrecking their commerce with curfews and inflexible, rigid closures.
On behalf of all those that have constructed up such companies with lengthy hours of danger and exhausting work and who now face going broke, and on behalf of these whose jobs in the hospitality business are being worn out, we demand that Mr Hancock replies, and eventually reveals whether or not he obeys his personal guidelines.