Hancock 'knew tiers wouldn’t work', UK Covid inquiry hears

Hancock 'Knew Tiers Wouldn’t Work', Uk Covid Inquiry Hears
Former UK health secretary Matt Hancock is due to give evidence to the Covid inquiry on Thursday and Friday. Photo: PA Images
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Christopher McKeon, PA Political Reporter

Former UK health secretary Matt Hancock knew Tier 3 restrictions would not work when he imposed them on Greater Manchester, the UK's Covid inquiry has heard.

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, accused the UK government of administering a “punishment beating” on the city in late 2020, following an argument over financial support for residents who were unable to work due to the restrictions.


Quoting from written evidence from Mr Hancock, Mr Burnham said: “He says in his evidence about Tier 3, ‘I was in despair that we had announced a policy that we knew would not work’.”

Covid-19 pandemic inquiry
Andy Burnham said Manchester had been subjected to a ‘punishment beating’ (UK Covid-19 Inquiry)

Mr Burnham also referred to a minute of the “Covid-O” committee, responsible for co-ordinating the UK government’s operational response to the crisis, which he said discussed a “punishment beating for Greater Manchester”.


Reading from the minute, he said: “Lancashire should have a lighter set of measures imposed than Greater Manchester since they had shown a greater willingness to co-operate.

“Tougher measures should be imposed on Greater Manchester that day.”

Mr Burnham added: “Because we stood up for people in our city region who would otherwise have really struggled had they gone into that lockdown without the funds to help them, because we took that stand they decided to make an example of us.

“It’s unbelievable for me now to look at evidence saying they knew it didn’t work, they knew Tier 3 didn’t work.


“They knew that, but they were still going to impose it on us without enough financial support.”

The tier system was introduced in October 2020 and imposed different restrictions on English regions in an effort to contain the spread of Covid-19.



The system was, however, unable to stem infections and a month-long national lockdown was introduced in November 2020, followed by a stricter tier system in December.

Mr Burnham had argued that those unable to work because of regional restrictions should receive 80 per cent of their salary under the furlough scheme, rather than the 67 per cent suggested by the UK government.

The same Covid-O minute that Mr Burnham referred to described his behaviour during the row as “appalling”.


Giving evidence to the Covid inquiry on Monday, Mr Burnham said: “I have seen that minute, the Covid-O minute, and frankly it’s nothing short of disgraceful, the points that were made in that minute.”

He added: “It wasn’t me that was behaving appallingly, it was the people in that room that were behaving appallingly because they were about to impose a policy on Greater Manchester which they knew didn’t work.

“And that’s something that I’ve only now realised looking at other people’s statements to this inquiry, and it makes me angry on behalf of the people of Greater Manchester that they sat in that room and they imposed a policy that they had been advised by Sage and others would not work.”

Mr Hancock himself is due to give evidence to the Covid inquiry on Thursday and Friday.

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