Matt Hancock 'immediately associated with the word 'sleaze'', survey finds

File photo dated 27/5/2021 of Matt Hancock who has resigned as Health Secretary in a letter to Boris

West Suffolk MP and former health secretary has been singled out for criticism by a report from Committee on Standards in Public Life - Credit: PA

West Suffolk MP and former health secretary Matt Hancock is among the politicians "immediately associated with the word 'sleaze'", a survey conducted for a parliamentary watchdog has found.

The poll of 1,590 people, which was conducted on behalf of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL), went on to add that Mr Hancock was seen as not possessing  "the core values expected from political leaders" by respondents.

The anti-corruption body found participants were "visibly angry as they recounted the strict pandemic rules they had to follow, which they believed were disregarded by various politicians who subsequently faced few or no consequences".

It singled prime ministers Boris Johnson and David Cameron out for criticism alongside Mr Hancock.

In total, 41% of people felt ministers' standards of conduct were quite low or very low, compared with 24% who felt they were quite or very high.

For MPs the figures were even worse. Just 20% of people surveyed felt that MPs' standards of conduct were quite or very high, while 44% felt they were quite or very low.

Polling also found that 43% of people felt standards had become worse.

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The survey was published on Monday, along with a report from the CSPL that recommended tougher sanctions for politicians with "poor ethical standards".

It added: "Participants spontaneously recalled examples of public procurement contracts during Covid being awarded to friends of MPs and ministers."

The committee also found there was "an underlying sense of resignation, bordering on cynicism" that politics would never be entirely ethical, but that improvements could still be made.

In his foreword to the main report, CSPL chair and former MI5 director-general Lord Evans said: "From the evidence we have taken during our review it has become clear that a system of standards regulation which relies on convention is no longer satisfactory."

He added: "The arrangements to uphold ethical standards in Government have come under close scrutiny and significant criticism in recent months.

"Maintaining high standards requires vigilance and leadership. We believe our recommendations point to a necessary programme of reform to restore public confidence in the regulation of ethical standards in Government."

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said the report would be carefully considered.

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