Suffolk MP Matt Hancock denies breaking coronavirus curfew
- Credit: Archant
West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock has refuted claims he was drinking in a Commons bar past the 10pm curfew introduced in a bid to bring the Covid spread under control.
Mr Hancock, who is also Health Secretary and has been a leading figure in the nation’s coronavirus response, is said to arrived at the bar just before a 9.40pm vote and made an ill-judged joke.
The Mail on Sunday claims he then breached the restrictions of the drinking curfew, which has forced bars and pubs across Suffolk to close at 10pm.
However, the Cabinet minister’s spokesman insisted allegations Mr Hancock stayed drinking in a Commons bar beyond 10pm were untrue.
The newspaper reported Mr Hancock arrived at the Commons bar just before a 9.40pm vote, ordered a glass of white wine and joked: “The drinks are on me - but Public Health England are in charge of the payment methodology so I will not be paying anything.”
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The Health Secretary’s spokesman insisted the MP, whose constituency includes Haverhill, Newmarket and Mildenall, had not broken curfew rules.
He said: “The proposed timeline of events is false and no rules have been broken.
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“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.”
However, a Government source told the PA news agency that Mr Hancock had made the joke as reported.
The comment about Public Health England came after Mr Hancock had addressed the Commons regarding the controversy over the organisation misplacing nearly 16,000 coronavirus test results.
These accusations come at a highly sensitive time for the Government as mayors in northern England have expressed opposition to an announcement expected tomorrow that parts of the hospitality sector, such as pubs, will be shut down in high risk areas.
Mr Hancock, who tested positive for coronavirus in March before recovering at home, has previously come under fire for breaking social distancing protocols in Parliament.
In June, he apologised for a “human mistake” after he was filmed breaking two-metre social distancing rules by placing his arm around a fellow MP as he arrived to the House of Commons for Prime Minister’s Questions.