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Hancock made grave mistake and rightly resigned, says Rees-Mogg

The Commons Leader compared Mr Hancock’s successor as health secretary to England ‘super sub’ Jack Grealish.

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Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Former health secretary Matt Hancock made a “grave mistake” and rightly lost his job, the Commons Leader has told MPs.

Jacob Rees-Mogg said Mr Hancock had been replaced by “super sub” Sajid Javid, who the Cabinet minister compared to England footballer Jack Grealish, who impressed during his display in the Euros victory over Germany on Tuesday.

The comments came after the Government faced further criticism over the handling of last week’s revelations that the former health secretary broke social distancing restrictions, with leaked CCTV pictures published in The Sun showing him kissing his aide, Gina Colangelo, in his departmental office.

Labour shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire questioned the Prime Minister’s refusal to sack Mr Hancock on Friday when the images first surfaced.

The former Cabinet minister resigned on Saturday – more than 24 hours after No 10 said the Prime Minister had accepted his apology and considered the matter closed.

He has been replaced by the super sub, the Jack Grealish of politics in the form of Sajid JavidJacob Rees-Mogg

SNP spokesman Pete Wishart said Mr Hancock quitting over an affair was “akin to Al Capone going down for tax evasion”, citing what he said was the ex-minister’s poor record during the coronavirus pandemic.

Responding to Ms Debbonaire’s criticisms of the handling of Mr Hancock’s rule breaking, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “I think the honourable lady’s fox was shot some time ago because (Mr Hancock) is the former health secretary – the word former is quite an important one.

“He has been replaced, as we’ve heard references to Association Football, by the super sub, the Jack Grealish of politics in the form of (Sajid Javid), the new Secretary of State who has come on to great effect and great panache already.

“She challenges me on what I said about the great genius of the former secretary of state, and I do stick by that because he worked incredibly hard for 15 months.”

He added: “Unfortunately he made a grave mistake for which, because the rules are enforced fairly, he resigned and he resigned the day after the story was printed in the newspapers.

“And here we get the splitting of hairs between the resignation and the sacking – the man has gone, he has lost his job, as has the non-executive director in the Department of Health with whom he seemed to be closely associated.

“And that is quite the right way for it to have happened – (Mr Hancock) is no longer in office.”

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Screengrab taken from the video posted by Matt Hancock on his Twitter feed where he resigned as health secretary on Saturday (Matt Hancock/PA)

Screengrab taken from the video posted by Matt Hancock on his Twitter feed where he resigned as health secretary on Saturday (Matt Hancock/PA)

PA

Screengrab taken from the video posted by Matt Hancock on his Twitter feed where he resigned as health secretary on Saturday (Matt Hancock/PA)

Separately, the Government’s top legal adviser sought to dismiss concerns of favourable treatment for Mr Hancock after he breached social distancing rules.

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed it was not investigating the incident.

Speaking in the Commons, shadow solicitor general Ellie Reeves said: “As we come out of the pandemic, to restore confidence in the criminal justice system the public needs to know the law will apply equally to everyone – irrespective of rank, job or title.

“It’s clear from the footage of the former health secretary and his aide that the law on indoor gatherings was breached. This very same law prevented Her Majesty the Queen from sitting with her family at the funeral of her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.

“Does the Attorney General agree with me that by failing to investigate the former health secretary’s breach this Government is sending the message that there’s one rule for Government ministers and their advisers and another for everyone else?”

Attorney General Michael Ellis replied: “We do not discuss individual cases putative or otherwise, and the reality of the matter is that she will recognise that everyone is equal under the law in our system and that has always been the case and remains the case.”

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