Hancock ‘threatened to withhold funding for learning disability hub if rebelled against restrictions


Matt Hancock ‘threatened to withhold funding for learning disability hub if MP rebelled against Covid restrictions’, leaked WhatsApps suggest

Matt Hancock threatened to withhold funding for a children’s learning disability hub if an MP rebelled against Covid restrictions, leaked WhatsApps suggest.

The former health secretary and an aide discussed taking the project ‘off the table’ if James Daly, the MP for Bury North, did not back the local tier system for Covid curbs.

Mr Daly said he was ‘appalled’ and ‘disgusted’ by the messages but confirmed he had never been threatened with the scheme.

Mr Hancock’s team said ‘what’s being accused here never happened’ and disputed the ‘entirely partial account’ based on the trove WhatsApps leaked to The Telegraph.

But Senior Conservative Jake Berry described the disclosure as an ‘absolute disgrace’ and called for Mr Hancock to be hauled before the Commons for questioning.

The former health secretary and an aide spoke about warning Bury North MP James Daly (pictured) that a new centre for disabled children and adults would be 'off the table' if he voted against the Government

Matt Hancock (pictured) discussed withholding funding for a learning disability centre to pressure an MP not to rebel against coronavirus restrictions, leaked messages suggest

Senior Conservative Jake Berry (pictured) described the disclosure as an 'absolute disgrace' and called for Mr Hancock to be hauled before the Commons for questioning

Senior Conservative Jake Berry (pictured) described the disclosure as an ‘absolute disgrace’ and called for Mr Hancock to be hauled before the Commons for questioning

The messages, sent on November 22 2020, came ahead of a Government vote on December 1 on the local tier system in England. Allan Nixon, a special advisor in the Department of Health, told Mr Hancock that 'we need to dangle our top asks' over some of the newest MPs 'thinking of rebelling' who entered Parliament in 2019 through Boris Johnson's general election victory

The messages, sent on November 22 2020, came ahead of a Government vote on December 1 on the local tier system in England. Allan Nixon, a special advisor in the Department of Health, told Mr Hancock that ‘we need to dangle our top asks’ over some of the newest MPs ‘thinking of rebelling’ who entered Parliament in 2019 through Boris Johnson’s general election victory

The messages, sent on November 22 2020, came ahead of a Government vote on December 1 on the local tier system in England.

Allan Nixon, a special advisor in the Department of Health, told Mr Hancock that ‘we need to dangle our top asks’ over some of the newest MPs ‘thinking of rebelling’ who entered Parliament in 2019 through Boris Johnson’s general election victory.

Mr Nixon pointed to Mr Daly, who ‘wants his Learning Disability Hub in Bury’. 

He suggested that the whips ‘call him up and say Health team want to work with him to deliver this but that’ll be off the table if he rebels’.

He added: ‘These guys’ re-election hinges on us in a lot of instances, and we know what they want. We should seriously consider using it IMO’.

Mr Hancock’s response was ‘yes 100%’.

Exchanges on the day of the vote show that the former Health Secretary said Mr Daly ‘is with us’.

But Mr Nixon said this was only the case if ‘extra hospitality support is forthcoming’. 

However, Mr Daly was one of the 53 Tory MPs who voted against the tier system — marking the biggest rebellion under Boris Johnson.

Mr Daly, who won his seat from Labour last election by just 105 votes in 2019, told the newspaper he was ‘appalled’ and ‘disgusted’ that the disability hub was discussed as a way to coerce him into voting with ministers.

But he said the threat was never made to him.

Mr Berry, a former Tory party chairman, said: ‘This is an absolute disgrace.

‘Hancock should be dragged to the bar of the House of Commons first thing tomorrow morning to be questioned on this.’

Mr Hancock’s spokesman said: ‘As we’ve repeatedly seen this last week, it is completely wrong to take this entirely partial account and write it up as fact.

‘What’s being accused here never happened, demonstrating the story is wrong, and showing why such a biased, partial approach to the evidence is a bad mistake, driven by those with a vested interest and an axe to grind.

‘The right place to consider everything about the pandemic objectively is in the public inquiry.’



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