Freedom of Information: News

‘Farcical’ government refuses to publish Hancock’s official pandemic diaries

Former health secretary has published memoirs as a book – but department of health won’t hand over his official diary

Jenna Corderoy
Ruby Lott-Lavigna Jenna Corderoy
7 December 2022, 11.36am

Former health secretary Matt Hancock, whose official ministerial diaries must stay secret, according to the government – even though he has published his own memoir, and been accused in the process of 'rewriting history'


Karl Black/Alamy Live News

The government has spent months battling to keep Matt Hancock’s official pandemic diary secret – despite the former health secretary publishing a personal memoir about the period that critics say amounts to rewriting history.

Families who lost loved ones during the pandemic call the refusal to release Hancock’s official ministerial diaries “as disgraceful as it is farcical”. Hancock, who recently lost the Tory whip for appearing on ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!’, released his book ‘Pandemic Diaries: The Inside Story of Britain's Battle Against Covid’ this week.

openDemocracy has fought for the release of Hancock’s official diaries for more than a year. The documents could reveal who the MP was meeting while deciding health policy and handing out million-pound PPE contracts.

But the Department of Health and Social Care has repeatedly rejected the request, calling it vexatious, despite commitments from ministers at the time for “transparency”.

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"Matt Hancock releasing a book called ‘Pandemic Diaries’ whilst refusing to release his official diaries is as disgraceful as it is farcical,” said Lobby Akinnola, a spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice. “Having overseen the deaths of 150,000 British citizens and been fired for breaking his own lockdown rules, he’s now being paid huge sums of money to appear on reality TV shows and is desperately using his book to try and rewrite history.

On Wednesday, Hancock announced he will not stand as a Conservative MP in the next election, saying that he has "discovered a whole new world of possibilities" that he is "excited to explore". The news comes just over a week after the MP left the jungle in reality TV show, I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!.

“The families like mine that he’s ripped apart are left unable to get the answers we need to try and move forward with our lives," added Akinnola. "Whilst Matt Hancock gets a megaphone, his victims are silenced.”

Tory peer Baroness Mone took a leave of absence from the House of Lords on Tuesday after reportedly receiving millions in profit from a PPE contract she is said to have lobbied ministers, including Hancock, who called her approaches “aggressive” in his book. Mone has said she did nothing wrong and denies having any relationship with the company PPE Medpro.

Last year it emerged that former health minister, Lord Bethell, had attended meetings with companies that later received millions in government Covid contracts.

The Department for Health and Social Care has been approached for comment.

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From coronation budgets to secretive government units, journalists have used the Freedom of Information Act to expose corruption and incompetence in high places. Tony Blair regrets ever giving us this right. Today's UK government is giving fewer and fewer transparency responses, and doing it more slowly. But would better transparency give us better government? And how can we get it?

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Hear from:

Claire Miller Data journalism and FOI expert
Martin Rosenbaum Author of ‘Freedom of Information: A Practical Guidebook’; former BBC political journalist
Jenna Corderoy Investigative reporter at openDemocracy and visiting lecturer at City University, London
Chair: Ramzy Alwakeel Head of news at openDemocracy

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