Matt Hancock has been blasted for telling a female Labour MP to ‘watch her tone’ after she grilled him on the government’s coronavirus testing strategy.
The Health Secretary disagreed when Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said the policy had ‘cost lives’ and told her she should ‘take a leaf out of the shadow secretary of state’s book in terms of tone’.
Dr Allin-Khan, who attends shadow cabinet meetings and works as an A&E doctor, later tweeted she would not ‘watch her tone’ when challenging the Government.
The Health Secretary (right) disagreed when Dr Rosena Allin-Khan (left) said the policy had ‘cost lives’ and told her she should ‘take a leaf out of the shadow secretary of state’s book in terms of tone’
Dr Allin-Khan, who attends shadow cabinet meetings and works as an A&E doctor, later tweeted she would not ‘watch her tone’ when challenging the Government
Mr Hancock said: ‘I think she might do well to take a leaf out of the shadow secretary of state’s book in terms of tone’
The row came after the Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health called on Mr Hancock to commit to a ‘minimum of 100,000 tests each day going forward’ after the total dipped below the target again yesterday.
The former Labour deputy leadership candidate told MPs: ‘Frontline workers like me have had to watch families break into pieces as we deliver the very worst of news to them, that the ones they love most in this world have died.
‘The testing strategy has been non-existent. Community testing was scrapped, mass testing was slow to roll out, and testing figures are now being manipulated.
‘Does the Secretary of State commit to a minimum of 100,000 tests each day going forward?
‘And does the Secretary of State acknowledge that many frontline workers feel that the Government’s lack of testing has cost lives and is responsible for many families being unnecessarily torn apart in grief?’
The UK now has more confirmed COVID-19 deaths – according to backdated statistics from the Office for National Statistics, National Records Scotland, and Northern Ireland’s NISRA – than any other country in Europe
Mr Hancock replied: ‘I welcome the honourable lady to her post as part of the shadow health team.
‘I think she might do well to take a leaf out of the shadow secretary of state’s book in terms of tone.
‘I’m afraid what she said is not true. There’s been a rapid acceleration in testing over the last few months, including getting to 100,000 tests a day.’
His comments sparked uproar among MPs, with former acting Labour Party leader Harriet Harman branding it ‘creepy’.
She tweeted: ‘Something creepy about a man telling a woman to watch her tone! Worse that he recommends she adopts the tone of another man. I suggest @MattHancock changes his.’
Former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott told Dr Allin-Khan: ‘I was watching Health Questions. Absolutely nothing wrong with your tone.
‘It reflects and reverberates with the reality of what yourself and other NHS workers are experiencing. Hancock very unwise to be so dismissive.’
Shadow culture minister Alison McGovern wrote: ‘I think the words he was looking for are, ”thank you for your service”.’
Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy said Mr Hancock ‘should apologise’ for his reply to a ‘perfectly factual question’.
He tweeted: ‘This is no way for the Health Secretary to speak to a serving A&E doctor.’
Shadow Home Office minister Jess Phillips put: ‘Her tone was fine, respectful, and might I dare say her view is more knowledgeable about the front line than the Health Secretary.
‘Can’t imagine why he doesn’t like her ”tone”. (obviously I can well imagine).’
Acting Lib Dem leader Ed Davey added: ‘Totally agree with @DrRosena. @MattHancock’s tone should change not Rosena’s. Looks like the truth hurt the Secretary of State.’
Politicians came out in force to defend Dr Allin-Khan and criticise the health secretary for his comment
Even some celebrities weighed into the fallout and savaged Mr Hancock on social media.
Chef Nigella Lawson, whose father Nigel was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher, added: ‘There was absolutely nothing wrong with your tone.’
Douglas Mackinnon, who directed the BBC’s Sherlock and Line Of Duty, put: ‘Nasty and bullying from Matt Hancock.’
Film producer Jemima Goldsmith, who was married to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, said online: ‘Your tone @DrRosena was entirely reasonable and measured.
‘@MattHancock just clearly didn’t like being asked a perfectly legitimate question about the lack of testing & the manipulation of information.’
Even some celebrities weighed into the fallout and savaged Mr Hancock on social media
Coronavirus testing numbers have been running below 100,000 a day again despite a massive expansion of capacity, it was revealed last night.
Mr Hancock said there were 85,186 tests in the 24 hours to 9am on Monday – up slightly from the 76,000 recorded on Sunday – but well short of the goal.
Mr Hancock claimed victory in the race to hit the target on Friday, saying there had been 122,000 on the last day of April.
But it later emerged around 40,000 of those had been counted when they were posted out, rather than when they were actually processed.
The government furiously denied fixing the numbers to avoid embarrassing failure, pointing out the tests do not feature in the figures when they are returned.
Earlier today Mr Hancock said testing of asymptomatic NHS staff will be rolled out further across the country.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘I wonder if he’s (Mr Hancock) considered the study from Imperial (College London) that suggests weekly screening of healthcare workers, testing them every week whether symptomatic or not, reduces their contribution to transmission by around 25 per cent to 33 per cent?
‘Will he look at testing all healthcare staff, whether they’ve got symptoms or not?’
Mr Hancock replied: ‘Yes, (Mr Ashworth) has asked questions in a responsible and reasonable way and I welcome his support for the test, track and trace pilot in the Isle of Wight that we announced yesterday.
‘We have piloted the testing of asymptomatic NHS staff now in 16 trusts across the country and those pilots have been successful, and we’ll be rolling it out further.’
Mr Hancock said privacy is ‘there by design’ as part of the new NHS test, track and trace app.
Conservative MP Laura Trott (Sevenoaks) asked how he plans to alleviate privacy concerns.
Mr Hancock responded: ‘People need to know that the app has privacy in its design, the data that it holds is held on your phone, it doesn’t go to the Government, until of course you need to get a test, in which case of course you’ve got to get in contact with the NHS.
‘So, privacy is there by design, there’s cross-party support, there’s, according to a very early poll, 80 per cent of people on the Isle of Wight want to download it.
‘These are good early signs and we’ll have a big communications campaign to explain to people the benefits of the test, track and trace programme as we roll it out across the country.’