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Matt Hancock accused of breaking 10pm curfew after ‘tasteless’ Covid joke

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been accused of ignoring the same coronavirus 10pm curfew rules he has forced on the country.

A fellow Tory MP claimed to have spotted the Cabinet member drinking in the Commons Smoking Room at 10:25pm – not long after he made a cheap joke about the Government's test and trace failings.

Mr Hancock, who has denied breaking the rules, reportedly ordered a glass of white wine just before a 9.40pm vote.

He then announced at the bar: "The drinks are on me – but Public Health England are in charge of the payment methodology so I will not be paying anything."

His quip came after trying to muster up an explanation in the Commons as to why the quango had lost nearly 16,000 positive coronavirus tests which put lives at risk, according to Labour.

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Liberal Democrats' Health spokesman, Munira Wilson, described the attempt for a quick laugh as 'tasteless'.

She said: "If these tasteless remarks are accurate, he must apologise. Matt Hancock has no shame.

"Thanks to his incompetence, we have a failing test-and-trace system which has left thousands mourning loved ones and millions worrying about their livelihoods as they face yet further lockdown measures.

"Instead of taking responsibility, he's making jokes at their expense and blaming everyone for his incompetence. The British public will not forget."

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Mr Hancock's spokesman declined to comment on the remark.

The Cabinet minister made it only hours after being quizzed about Public Health England's failure to report positive coronavirus tests which meant 50,000 potentially infectious people were not contacted.

Mr Hancock admitted the blunder 'should never have happened.'

Sources told the Mail on Sunday Mr Hancock joined about 20 other MPs in the Smoking Room on Monday evening, where he ordered a glass of French sauvignon blanc and made his joke.

One person at the bar said: "In trademark pantomime dame-style, cracked a gag about how he'd stand everybody a drink but as PHE was keeping a count, he'd never have to pay up. It did get quite a laugh."

Mr Hancock left the room for a 9.42pm vote, but one person present claimed he later returned and stayed beyond 10pm.

A more junior minister ordered a bottle of wine at 9.59pm and stayed drinking it with colleagues, according to reports.

Mr Hancock is also said to have ordered a large glass of white wine not long before the bar shut at 10pm and then stayed on to drink it.

One MP said: "He wasn't the only one – some people were still ordering bottles of wine right up to the deadline.

"However, it was extraordinary that at 10.25pm our Health Secretary – the man who maybe more than Boris himself has lectured the nation about respecting the Covid rules – was knocking back a glass of vino when out in the real world, drinkers and diners had been kicked out of pubs and restaurants across England.

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"Everyone is panicking and trying to cover for Matt, but I know what I saw and I can tell the time."

A spokesman for the Health Secretary said: "No rules have been broken.

"The Secretary of State was in the Smoking Room prior to the vote that evening.

"The Secretary of State left the Smoking Room to vote. The vote took place at 9:42pm.

"The Secretary of State then departed the Parliamentary estate to go home."

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But when asked whether Hancock went back to the bar after voting, the spokesman failed to respond.

Charles Walker, the Tory MP overseeing Commons bars, promised he would launch an investigation into claims that the curfew was not being observed by Ministers.

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