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Matt Hancock put “all of us across the UK first” by resigning as health secretary after being caught breaking his own Covid rules and deserves “credit”, a cabinet minister has claimed.
Hancock quit on Saturday following the leaking of video footage showing him breaking social distancing rules by kissing an aide in his ministerial office.
He has been replaced as health secretary by former chancellor Sajid Javid.
Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, said on Hancock had rightly apologised.
“I think it’s a credit to Matt that his first thought is around making sure the country and the government can continue to do the work that we need to do as we are moving out of the Covid pandemic,” he told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme.
“I think in doing that he has put his family and indeed, all of us across the UK first, because he wants to focus as the PM does, as we all do, to be getting out of this pandemic in the best possible way and as quickly as we can.”
Anneliese Dodds, the chair of the Labour Party, said it “speaks volumes about the total lack of integrity at the heart of Boris Johnson’s government” that Lewis could think Hancock deserved credit for resigning.
“Hancock’s record includes wasting huge sums of taxpayers’ money, leaving care homes exposed and breaking his own Covid rules,” she said. “If Boris Johnson had any backbone, he would have removed him.”
Reports suggested Hancock was made aware of the footage on Thursday evening, and he apologised on Friday following its publication but did not immediately resign.
No 10 said Johnson considered the matter closed following Hancock’s apology, but pressure mounted throughout the day and into Saturday, and Conservative MPs began to call for Hancock to go.
By just after 6pm on Saturday, Hancock said he had been to see Johnson to tender his resignation as his personal life threatened to distract from the pandemic effort.
And less than two hours later Javid had been confirmed in the post.