UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock was threatened with being kicked out of the Commons Chamber by House Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, after heckling the Labour leader during a heated PMQs on the Covid-19 crisis in care homes.
Hoyle made the dramatic intervention on Wednesday during a grilling of Prime Minister Boris Johnson by Labour leader Keir Starmer over the lack of coronavirus testing for elderly residents and staff, following accusations the UK government had failed to protect care homes.
Starmer name-checked the chief executive of Care England, who had recently told MPs on the Health Select Committee that routine testing at care homes was not in place. It appeared to rile the Conservative benches, most notably Hancock, the Health and Social Care Secretary, who began heckling the Labour leader – to the point where the speaker lost his patience.
Hoyle jumped up from his seat to tell Hancock that he didn’t mind him communicating with the prime minister, but drew a line at him “advising” Starmer during his questions. The warning seemingly fell on deaf ears, prompting an angry response from an exasperated speaker, who threatened to kick Hancock out of the chamber.
Ah sorry, do you want to leave the Chamber? We’re on maximum numbers if you want to give way to someone else, I’m more than happy.
Earlier, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland became the first UK cabinet minister to essentially concede that the government decided to prioritize the National Health Service (NHS) to the detriment of care homes, in protecting people against the coronavirus.
Hancock’s dressing-down provoked a strong reaction online, with many on Twitter suggesting Hoyle’s actions had echoes of former House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, who was renowned for his direct, no-nonsense style.
One commenter tweeted: “So the Conservatives thought pushing out John Bercow would mean the new Speaker would be a pushover. Sir Lindsay Hoyle is having none of it.” Others branded Hancock a “spoilt brat.”
It’s not the first time Hancock has ruffled feathers over his behavior in parliament. Labour’s Mary Foy, MP for the City of Durham, alluded to the recent case where Hancock told Shadow Mental Health Minister Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan to watch her “tone,” after tough questions on the UK government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
The Commons commotion comes after Professor Martin Green of Care England launched a scathing attack on Downing Street on Tuesday, telling MPs that “we should have been focusing on care homes from the start.”
The number of people who have died with Covid-19 in care homes in the UK since the start of the pandemic has now surpassed 11,600, representing more than a quarter of nationwide deaths from the virus, according to the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS).
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