DOMINIC Cummings and Matt Hancock are at daggers drawn in a brutal row that cuts to the heart of the Government's Covid handling.
After being spectacularly dumped on by the ex-No10 adviser, the Health Secretary today mounted a furious defence of his role in the Commons.
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He slapped down some of the most damning claims lobbed by Mr Cummings at yesterday's dynamite select committee appearance, including charges that he repeatedly lied.
At the centre of their clash are several contested allegations that raise serious questions for the Government – and Mr Hancock's political life.
Mr Cummings was utterly scathing of the Government's efforts to protect vulnerable care home residents.
He saved particular venom for Mr Hancock, whose claim to have "thrown a ring" around care homes he derided as "complete nonsense".
Mr Cummings blasted: "Hancock told us in the cabinet room that people were going to be tested before they went back to care homes. What the hell happened?"
Mr Hancock today shrugged off the charge, saying: "It was of course a difficult challenge at the start when many different characteristics were unknown… we followed the clinical advice at every stage."
Mr Cumming took the shine off one of the Health Secretary's most trumpeted achievements – scaling up testing to 100,000 a day by the end of April 2020.
The PM's former adviser branded this an "incredibly stupid" stunt and accused him of "interfering" with the track and trace machine to boost his chances of hitting the goal.
He said: "He should have been fired for that thing alone: it meant that the whole of April was hugely disrupted by different parts of Whitehall fundamentally trying to operate in different ways, completely because Hancock wanted to be able to go on TV and say, look at me, my 100k targets. It was criminal, disgraceful behaviour that caused serious harm."
Mr Hancock said today: "Setting and meeting ambitious targets is how you get things done in government."
Mr Cummings accused Mr Hancock of being dishonest with MPs that the sick were being treated.
He said: "In the summer he said that everybody who needed treatment got the treatment that they required.
'He knew that that was a lie because he had been briefed by the chief scientific adviser and the chief medical officer himself about the first peak, and we were told explicitly people did not get the treatment they deserved, many people were left to die in horrific circumstances."
On the wider claims of lying, Mr Hancock hit back today: "These unsubstantiated allegations around honesty are not true.
"I've been straight with people in public and in private throughout."
Mr Cummings claimed that Mr Hancock guaranteed plans were in place to deal with a pandemic when there were none.
He said the Health Secretary assured: "We've got full plans up to and including pandemic levels regularly prepared and refreshed."
Mr Hancock told the Commons this morning: "Throughout we have been straight with people and straight with this house."
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