BORIS Johnson has faced questions about his handling of the Matt Hancock saga this afternoon.
During Prime Minister’s Questions, Keir Starmer challenged Mr Johnson over his statement on Friday that he considered the matter ‘closed’, despite Mr Hancock admitting to breaking his own social distancing rules.
The Labour leader then referenced the case of 27-year-old Ollie Bibby, who died of leukaemia the day before before the Hancock CCTV footage was recorded.
He said his family had been hanging on the Government’s every word about the coronavirus rules, and only one relative was able to see him despite Mr Bibby “begging” to see his relatives before he died.
Mr Starmer said: “The day before the photo of the former health secretary was taken Ollie died, like so many other people in this pandemic, with his family and friends unable to spend time with him.
“When he was in hospital he begged to see his family, but following the rules, only one member of his family was allowed to see him.
“His mum said ‘I’m livid. We did everything we were told to do. And the man who made the rules didn’t. That cannot be right.’
“So I ask the prime minister how could you possibly think this matter was closed on Friday?”
Mr Johnson replied: “We all share the grief and the pain of Ollie and his family, and millions of people up and down the country, who have endured the privations that this country has been through in order to get the Coronavirus pandemic under control.
“That is why we had a change of health secretary the day after the story appeared.
“That is why, actually what we are doing as a government, instead of focusing on stuff going on within the Westminster bubble, we are focusing on rolling out that vaccine…”
Mr Starmer said he was appalled that Mr Johnson had referred to the Hancock saga as within the “Westminster bubble” when he was asking about the case of Mr Bibby, and urged the Prime Minister to withdraw his comments.
He repeatedly asked how Mr Johnson could have considered the case closed when the Hancock photograph emerged on Friday, and questioned if the PM has asked his former health secretary if he had broken any more rules.
Mr Johnson said the replacement of Mr Hancock on Saturday “was entirely right” and adds that the “best response in my view” to the families’ ”grief and their pain, and the sufferings that they have endured, is to get on with a new health secretary, which is what we have, and with all the energy and application that we have to roll out those vaccines and allow the people of this country, to work towards freedom day.”
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, questioned Mr Johnson on the EU Settled Status scheme, which is due to close today, and urged him to scrap the dealine.
He said that here were still “hundreds of thousands of applications” still unprocessed due to Government delays, and it risked “turning our neighbours into illegal immigrants overnight.”
He said: “ Scotland’s message to EU citizens is ‘You’re welcome here, we want you to stay, this is your home’ but this UK government is causing EU citizens untold stress.
“One woman who has been in the UK 44 years says she feels suicidal. Another says she feels like a third-rate citizen. That is shameful, Prime Minister.
“Will the government now do the right thing – scrap the deadline and introduce automatically granted settled status?
“Or will the Prime Minister’s legacy be the ridiculous removal of our NHS staff, our local community workers, our teachers and many more who have made their homes here?”
Mr Johnson replied that EU citizens who had not yet applied to remain in the UK should “get on with it” adding: “It’s obvious from the statistics I’ve already quoted this outstanding success because we’ve had a huge number of people applying.
“There’s been several extensions of the deadline, it’s five years now since the Brexit referendum.
“We’ve funded 72 organisations to help vulnerable EU citizens to understand what their rights are to make the applications.
“Anybody applying within the deadline will of course have their case dealt with, and I urge them to get on with it.”