The PM’s former chief adviser delivers explosive information on the Department of Health in his first public remarks since he left Number 10
The Department of Health had been a “smoking ruin” during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the former chief aide to the prime minister has told MPs.
Dominic Cummings has revealed how the UK government’s vaccine programme was moved out of Department of Health and Social Care, run by Matt Hancock, following the problems health officials in the UK had in buying personal protective equipment for NHS workers.
He made these comments during explosive evidence to the House of Commons’ science and technology committee amid his first public remarks since his dramatic departure from 10 Downing Street last year.
This comes after the UK is set to reverse its plans to reduce its nuclear stockpile by the middle of the decade, as part of a new overhaul in foreign policy. The cap on the number of nuclear warheads will now increase to 260, having been due to drop to 180 under previous plans from 2010.
Dominic Cummings also made the claims that:
• The UK government’s procurement system before 2020 was an “expensive disaster zone” and when the COVID-19 pandemic hit it “completely fell over”
• Parliament should be holding an “urgent” inquiry into the coronavirus crisis and MPs should take a “very, very hard look” into “what went wrong and why in 2020”
• He made four demands of the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, before he joined his staff in Number 10, including sorting out the “disaster zone” that is Whitehall
• He said that he did not ask for a pay rise from Johnson before he left Downing Street and that he had previously taken a pay cut
• He said that he did not watch this month’s budget, adding that: “I don’t really have any idea what was in it”
Commenting on the UK government’s vaccination programme, Cummings told MPs that Boris Johnson “took it out of the Department of Health” when the PM decided that they would create a separate task force.
“It’s not coincidental the vaccine programme worked the way that it did,” he said.
“It’s not coincidental that to do that we had to take it out of the Department of Health, we had to have it authorised very directly by the prime minister and say ‘strip away all the normal nonsense that we can see is holding back funding in therapeutics’.”
Mr Cummings added: “In spring 2020 you had a situation where the Department of Health was just a smoking ruin in terms of procurement and PPE and all of that.
This comes after UK goods exports to the EU fell by 40.7% in January, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), with imports dropping by 28.8%. The figures show that the biggest drop since records began back in 1997, and are the first since the new trading rules between the UK and the EU have come into force.
“You had serious problems with the funding bureaucracy for therapeutics, that was the kind of context for it.
“Patrick Vallance (the government’s chief scientific adviser) then came to Number 10 and says ‘this shouldn’t be run out of the Department for Health, we should create a separate taskforce’.
Mr Cummings, who was the one to mastermind the Vote Leave campaign during the EU referendum, also told the science and technology committee that “one of the most obvious lessons” of the COVID-19 crisis was that the UK government should “go to extreme lengths to try to de-bureaucratise the normal system”.