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Hancock discussed blocking plans for disability hub

Matt Hancock

A series of leaked messages show Matt Hancock backed plans to close a centre for disabled children to encourage a fellow Conservative MP to vote for the Covid-19 tier system in England.

Conversations on WhatsApp between Hancock and James Daly, Conservative MP for Bury North, have been made public by an identified source.

Hancock threatened to put pressure on Daly if he did not vote to introduce the planned lockdown measures.

Daly said he was “very disappointed” to hear about the conversation, which he states never took place.

He told BBC Manchester if the exchange did happen he would “have told him where to go, and reported matters to a higher authority.

"To think somebody would use potential funding that could help someone vulnerable in our community to get votes for the government is just not acceptable."

Former Conservative Party chair Sir Jake Berry accused Hancock of "weaponising the provision of care to young disabled people" and said it "crosses a line of what's acceptable in public life".

Berry added the ex-health secretary had been “drunk on power”.

Hancock’s political aide Allan Nixon said he warned Daly funding a new centre for disabled children and adults in his constituency would be “off the table” if he did not vote for a tougher lockdown system on 1 December 2020.

Daly told The Telegraph he was not made aware the Department for Health and Social Care were planning a disability hub in Bury North which would provide specialists with a centre supporting local disabled people.

The leaked messages imply Hancock was more focused supporting pubs situated in higher tiers because they were unable to serve food.

At the time only bars in tier two were permitted to stay open if they served “substantial meals”, those in tier three could only offer takeaways or deliveries.

MPs supported the government tier system by 291 votes to 79, despite a rebellion from Conservative MPs, including Daly.

A spokesperson for Hancock said the WhatsApp exchange was an "entirely partial account".

"The missing context here is vitally important because this vote was critical for saving lives," they added.

"What's being accused here never happened, demonstrating the story is wrong, and showing why such a biased, partial approach to the evidence is a bad mistake, driven by those with a vested interest and an axe to grind.

"The right place to consider everything about the pandemic objectively is in the public inquiry."

[ To date there have been 100,000 WhatsApp messages leaked to The Telegraph. ]

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