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Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi and Piers Morgan clash over Matt Hancock's unlawful conduct over PPE contracts

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi appeared on today’s Good Morning Britain where he faced questions on Matt Hancock breaking the law, national PPE shortages and the roadmap out of lockdown.

Speaking to Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, he discussed Matt Hancock breaching his legal obligations by not publishing details about pandemic related contracts within thirty days.

Mr Zahawi said: “Government is challenged all the time through judicial review… I would just step back Piers for a second and go back to the period when we were looking to make sure we delivered PPE to the frontline. The National Audit Office looked at this and said no health trust ran out of PPE in the United Kingdom.”

After Piers argued that there was indeed a “grotesque” shortage of PPE, Mr Zahawi reiterated that the National Audit Office had looked into it and said: “I have to accept their report, which said that no health trust went without the PPE that they needed whereas other countries had a real problem with PPE.”

Pushed on why the Government would not admit they weren’t prepared enough in terms of PPE, Mr Zahawi added: “We could only produce about 1% of our need, now we can produce 70% of our need. We have committed to an enquiry… It was tough but what I am saying to you is, what is better, does the team focus on bringing more PPE in and do that job well and we will publish all contracts [in due time] - the vaccine contracts, whether Astra Zeneca, Pfizer are all published…”

Asked if the Government regrets that the law was broken, he said: “Of course we have to learn the lessons of mistakes that were made across the board. Every Government has had challenges. I think that Matt Hancock did the right thing to focus his team on delivering [the PPE]... if he was found to have delayed by two or three weeks publication of the correct paperwork, I would much rather have him get reprimanded for that by the courts rather than delaying his team from doing their job and getting PPE to the frontline… We respect the law and we will make sure that all contracts are published...Everyone is sorry that they break the law.”

On the subject of the roadmap out of lockdown, Mr Zahawi confirmed that schools will return on March 8, saying: “March 8th is the date we want to see all school children back at school. There are four tests that we will continue to monitor. One is that the vaccine rollout continues. We have become more ambitious, we have brought the date forward. The last time I was on your programme, we were talking about May for all over 50s, that is now mid-April and all adults to be offered the vaccine by the end of July.”

He continued: “The second test is that the vaccine efficacy, the effectiveness on serious illness, hospitalisation and death is clear and that it is reducing all those. Three is then making sure infection rates continue to be under control so that as we open the economy we don’t see infection rates rising to a level that is unsustainable for the NHS, and the fourth, which is equally important, is that any variants we rapidly bring under control…”

Asked why they didn’t use the half term to vaccinate teachers, he said: “You are absolutely right to ask the question. One, we work with teachers, schools have been open for the frontline… We have done three million tests in school since January in preparation for the reopening of schools… A teacher who is vulnerable, who has any clinical condition, is now being vaccinated in cohort 6 which we are in the middle of right now as I am speaking to you and of course any teacher who is over the age of 50 is also in that cohort.”

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