Matt Hancock has said he is ‘hugely disappointed’ by a journalist who leaked WhatsApp messages during the pandemic.
He said it was a ‘massive betrayal and breach of trust by Isabel Oakeshott’ who gave messages from his time as health secretary to the Daily Telegraph.
Earlier this week around 100,000 private messages from Mr Hancock’s phone were leaked to the press.
Texts showed that Mr Hancock rejected advice to test all residents going into English care homes for coronavirus at the start of the pandemic.
Chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty told the former health secretary there should be testing for ‘all going into care homes’.
But the messages suggest he rejected the guidance, telling an aide the move just ‘muddies the waters’, and introduced mandatory testing for those coming from hospitals.
In further messages released this morning, it came to light that former education secretary Sir Gavin Williamson said some schools wanted to close during the pandemic so staff would have an ‘excuse’ not to work.
They show Mr Williamson asked the then health secretary for help securing PPE for schools, adding: ‘Some will just want to say they can’t [open] so they have an excuse to avoid having to teach, what joys!!!’
In a statement this morning Mr Hancock said: ‘I am hugely disappointed and sad at the massive betrayal and breach of trust by Isabel Oakeshott.
‘I am also sorry for the impact on the very many people – political colleagues, civil servants and friends – who worked hard with me to get through the pandemic and save lives.
‘There is absolutely no public interest case for this huge breach. All the materials for the book have already been made available to the Inquiry, which is the right, and only, place for everything to be considered properly and the right lessons to be learned.
‘As we have seen, releasing them in this way gives a partial, biased account to suit an anti-lockdown agenda.
‘Isabel and I had worked closely together for more than a year on my book, based on legal confidentiality and a process approved by the Cabinet Office.
‘Isabel repeatedly reiterated the importance of trust throughout, and then broke that trust.
‘Last night, I was accused of sending menacing messages to Isabel. This is also wrong.
‘When I heard confused rumours of a publication late on Tuesday night, I called and messaged Isabel to ask her if she had ‘any clues’ about it, and got no response.
‘When I then saw what she’d done, I messaged to say it was ‘a big mistake’. Nothing more.
‘I will not be commenting further on any other stories or false allegations that Isabel will make.
‘I will respond to the substance in the appropriate place, at the inquiry, so that we can properly learn all the lessons based on a full and objective understanding of what happened in the pandemic, and why.’
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