Labour has called for Matt Hancock to be blocked from seeking a “bumper payday” after reports that the former health secretary is set to write a book about his role in the pandemic.
Mr Hancock, who was forced to resign in June after leaked CCTV footage showed him breaking Covid rules to kiss his mistress in his ministerial office, is in talks over a £100,000 book deal with the publisher Harper Collins, according to the Daily Mail.
If the deal goes ahead, the former minister is said to want the book to come out just before the official Covid inquiry begins in the spring and portray himself in a “heroic light”.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “It is absolutely disgusting that Matt Hancock gets to put his spin on events – and his failures – for a bumper payday before bereaved families get the truth about the Government’s failures and mishandling of the pandemic in a public inquiry.”
“This is an insult to bereaved families. If the toothless and ineffective Acoba won’t block this then Boris Johnson needs to step in and stop Matt Hancock cashing in on tragedy and failure,” she added.
Acoba is the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments. It scrutinises jobs taken by former ministers rather than book deals and there are no rules against former ministers publishing memoirs.
However, if Mr Hancock did secure a book deal, he would have to submit his manuscript to the Cabinet Office for review. The rules around what can and can’t be published are deliberately vague, and officials will have significant scope to demand edits to the book.
The 1976 Radcliffe Report, to which the Cabinet Manual rules refer, calls for restrictions on any material “which would be destructive of the confidential relationships… which may subsist between minister and minister, ministers and their advisers, and between either and outside bodies or private persons”.
According to the report, the MP for West Suffolk wants to use the book to hit back at Dominic Cummings, the former No10 chief adviser who heavily criticised Mr Hancock, and pin the blame on him for delaying the vaccine rollout.
However, depending on how the Radcliffe rules are interpreted by Cabinet Office officials, they could prevent Mr Hancock from making any damaging revelations about Mr Cummings.
In May, while Mr Hancock was still in post, Mr Cummings told a committee of MPs that the Health Secretary “should have been fired for at least 15, 20 things” and accused him of “lying” and “incompetence”.
Mr Cummings also published WhatsApp messages in June which allegedly showed the Prime Minister calling Mr Hancock “totally f—— hopeless”.
A spokesman for Mr Hancock told The Telegraph: “Matt has been approached to write a book about his experiences in the pandemic, but no decisions have been made. There is no deal. The people who were heroic during the pandemic were the NHS staff who worked round the clock to save lives.”