Health Secretary Matt Hancock has resigned as health secretary after CCTV footage leaked of him kissing an aide in his departmental office, in breach of social distancing rules.
Here is the text of the letter, and the prime minister’s response, in full.
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to resign as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. We have worked so hard as a country to fight the pandemic. The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis. I want to reiterate my apology for breaking the guidance, and apologise to my family and loved ones for putting them through this. I also need be with my children at this time.
We owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done by breaching the guidance.
The NHS is the best gift a nation has ever given itself, and the dedication and courage of the NHS staff and the ceaseless work of the officials in the Department is something we should all be proud of. We didn’t get every decision right but I know people understand how hard it is to deal with the unknown, making the difficult trade-offs between freedom, prosperity and health that we have faced. I am so proud that Britain avoided the catastrophe of an overwhelmed NHS and that through foresight and brilliant science we have led the world in the vaccination effort, so we stand on the brink of a return to normality.
The reforms we have started in the health system will ensure it continues to provide even better care for people in years to come. We are building a better NHS which makes smarter use of technology and data, forming a new UK Health Security Agency, delivering positive changes to mental health care and will fix the problems in social care once and for all.
Many times I stood at the podium in Downing Street and thanked the team – my own team, the NHS, the volunteers, the Armed Services, our pharmacists GPs, the pharmaceutical industry and the whole British public who have made such sacrifices to help others. Those thanks are heartfelt and sincere and so I must resign.
It has been the honour of my life to serve in your Cabinet as Secretary of State and I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved. I will of course continue to support you in whatever way I can from the back benches, and I would like to thank you for your unwavering support, your leadership and your optimism, particularly as we worked together to overcome this awful disease.
Thank you for your letter this evening, tendering your resignation as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. I am sorry to receive it.
You should leave office very proud of what you have achieved – not just in tackling the pandemic, but even before COVID-19 struck us. Under your leadership, the Department has led fundamental reforms to the provision of care in this country. The NHS Long Term Plan was a major milestone in the history of that great institution. Your work on the Health and Care Bill will support our NHS and deliver greater integration between health and social care. And your efforts mean that we have a record numbers of doctors and over 14,800 more nurses working in our NHS than last year.
Above all, it has been your task to deal with a challenge greater than that faced by any of your predecessors, and in fighting Covid you have risen to that challenge – with the abundant energy, intelligence and determination that are your hallmark. Under your leadership, the Department for Health and Social Care has identified and deployed critical life-saving treatments such as Dexamethasone, rapidly increased hospital capacity through the Nightingale programme, and provided 11.7 billion items of PPE to the frontline at record speed. In March 2020, we had the capacity to test 2,000 people a day; now, we have built the largest diagnostic network in British history and have administered over 200 million tests. The vaccine procurement and deployment programme – in my view one of the greatest successes of the modern state – is now forging our path out of the pandemic.
Through the establishment of the United Kingdom Health Security Agency, you have also built the foundations to ensure that the UK is better prepared for any future pandemic. You made a considerable contribution to Government before becoming Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. I know that previous Prime Ministers were grateful for your work in ministerial positions in the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills, the Cabinet Office, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. You have, across those roles, been a consistent and vigorous champion of the power of digital transformation.
You should be immensely proud of your service. I am grateful for your support and believe that your contribution to public service is far from over.