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Matt Hancock defends using taxpayer-funded Jaguar to get to Covid inquiry

Matt Hancock has defended his decision to use a chauffeur-driven Jaguar funded by the taxpayer to travel to the Covid inquiry despite leaving his government job more than two years ago.

A spokesperson for Mr Hancock, the independent MP for West Suffolk, said it was “entirely reasonable” for the government to arrange his travel to the inquiry given that he was attending as the former health secretary.

The Daily Mirror reported that Mr Hancock used a ministerial car on three occasions in June, November and December last year when travelling to the inquiry but the Department of Health and Social Care would not reveal how much the journeys had cost.

Secretaries of state are provided with chauffeur-driven cars while they are serving in government but lose the privilege once they leave (PA)
Secretaries of state are provided with chauffeur-driven cars while they are serving in government but lose the privilege once they leave (PA)

Pictures from the inquiry showed Mr Hancock stepping out of a Jaguar on at least one occasion.

A spokesperson for Mr Hancock said: “Matt attended the Covid inquiry entirely in his capacity as having been the secretary of state during the pandemic. It is entirely reasonable that the government should take care of his travel and security arrangements in this instance.”

Secretaries of state are provided with chauffeur-driven cars while they are serving in government but lose the privilege once they leave.

DHSC said it had a duty of care to provide adequate security for the former health secretary, who has faced intense criticism over his handling of the pandemic.

Mr Hancock resigned from his position as health secretary in disgrace in June 2021 after he was caught breaching the Covid rules he had helped to draw up by kissing his colleague Gina Coladangelo in his office.

The MP is among a number of other current and former government ministers to have attended the inquiry, chaired by Baroness Heather Hallett.

Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, Rishi Sunak, the current prime minister and Sajid Javid, who replaced Mr Hancock as health secretary, have each given evidence.

Since leaving the government, Mr Hancock has appeared on reality TV shows I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! and Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, netting him a reported £445,000.

Giving evidence to the inquiry in December, Mr Hancock admitted admitted his affair with Ms Coladangelo breached lockdown rules.

The former health secretary giving evidence at Dorland House in London (PA)
The former health secretary giving evidence at Dorland House in London (PA)

He told the inquiry “the lesson for the future is very clear” in that “it is important that those who make the rules abide by them”, adding: “I resigned in order to take accountability for my failure to do that.”

Mr Hancock also defended his decision to discharge hospital patients into care homes without testing them for Covid as “rational and reasonable”, adding: “Nobody has yet brought to me a solution to this problem that I think, even with hindsight, would have resulted in more lives saved.”

He has also come under heavy criticism from other officials who have given evidence to the inquiry, including Helen MacNamara, the former deputy cabinet secretary, who said Mr Hancock displayed “nuclear levels” of confidence at the start of the pandemic.

She claimed that Mr Hancock “regularly” told colleagues in Downing Street things “they later discovered weren’t true”.

Mr Hancock, who lost the Conservative Party whip after going to the jungle while parliament was still sitting, announced in December 2022 that he would stand as an MP at the next election.