Boris Johnson was not in charge of his own Government with then No10 top aide Dominic Cummings instead seeking to "act as the Prime minister in all but name," the Covid Inquiry was told on Wednesday.The bombshell claim was made by former Chancellor Sajid Javid.
He resigned as Chancellor in February 2020 after Cummings effectively sacked his special adviser.The probe was shown a witness statement submitted by Mr Javid.It said: "I resigned in February 2020 before the pandemic in large measure because of the actions of Mr Dominic Cummings, who was in post at the time."I would say during my time as chancellor I considered he sought to act as the prime minister in all but name and he tried to make all key decisions within No 10 - not the Prime Minister."I felt that the elected Prime Minister was not in charge of what was happening in his name and was largely content with Mr Cummings running the Government.
"I did not think that was right and that was why I ultimately resigned."
Earlier, families who lost loved ones to Covid have said they hold Matt Hancock “directly responsible for the disproportionate loss of life” during the pandemic ahead of his appearance at the inquiry.
Mr Hancock, who was forced to resign as health secretary for breaching his own restrictions, is expected to face tough questioning at the Covid Inquiry on Thursday.
Families for Justice said errors by the former minister had resulted in “the gravest of consequences” for their relatives.
Nicola Brook, solicitor at Broudie Jackson Canter, the law firm representing the group of almost 7,000 members, said: “As the guardian of the nation’s health throughout much of the pandemic, Mr Hancock’s testimony is critical to the inquiry.
“Many of our bereaved clients hold him directly responsible for the significant and wholly disproportionate loss of life in our country and rightly demand answers. There’s been a common theme running throughout the evidence heard to date about the reliability of Mr Hancock’s word, with multiple witnesses giving evidence that they could not rely on what he said.
“Our clients have waited a long time to hear the former health secretary answer for the catalogue of errors... which had the gravest of consequences for so many, and will be looking for candour, not counter-claims. This is the very least that they deserve.”
The inquiry heard this week that Mr Hancock imposed Tier 3 restrictions on Greater Manchester in October 2020 despite knowing they “would not work”. The city’s mayor Andy Burnham said he believed Mr Hancock “punished” Manchester in a row over furlough cash.
He listed what he believed were the failings, including locking down too late. But the senior Tory, who was Cabinet Office minister when the pandemic began in 2020, also defended the then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “gladiatorial” decision-making as he hit out at claims of dysfunctionality in No 10.
He said: “If I may... apologise to the victims who endured such pain, the families who endured so much loss as a result of the mistakes that were made by Government in response to the pandemic.
“As a minister responsible for the Cabinet Office... I must take my share of responsibility for that.”
Mr Gove said he had a “high opinion” of Mr Hancock, who lost the Tory whip last year after agreeing to appear on ITV reality show I’m A Celebrity.
But various witnesses have expressed concern about his performance as health secretary,
Mr Gove argued that other parts of Government should have taken on more.
A spokesman for Mr Hancock said: “Mr Hancock has supported the inquiry throughout and will respond to all questions when he gives his evidence.”