Matt Hancock defends use of taxpayer-funded Jaguar for COVID Inquiry appearances

Matt Hancock has defended using a taxpayer-funded Jaguar to take him to the COVID Inquiry - despite resigning from the government more than two years ago.

The Department for Health confirmed it provided the former health secretary with the chauffeur-driven car on three occasions when he appeared before the inquiry in June, November and December last year.

The revelation comes after the Daily Mirror submitted a Freedom of Information request to the government.

Although the cost of providing the car was not revealed, taxpayer money was used to fund it, the newspaper reported.

A spokesperson for Mr Hancock said it was "entirely reasonable" for the government to provide transport to and from the inquiry.

"Matt attended the COVID Inquiry entirely in his capacity as having been the secretary of state during the pandemic," they said.

"It is entirely reasonable that the government should take care of his travel and security arrangements in this instance."

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Mr Hancock was a familiar face at the regular press conferences that took place during the pandemic.

But he was forced to resign in 2021 after he admitted breaking the government's coronavirus guidance while pursuing an affair with an aide.

The inquiry, which has also heard other government figures including Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, is examining the government's response to the pandemic.

Appearing in front of the inquiry in December, the former health secretary acknowledged that leaked footage of him kissing aide Gina Coladangelo - which showed they broke social distancing guidelines - undermined public confidence in efforts to tackle coronavirus.

"What I'd say is that the lesson for the future is very clear," he said.

"And it is important that those who make the rules abide by them, and I resigned in order to take accountability for my failure to do that."

Mr Hancock also faced criticism from several witnesses at the inquiry, including from former deputy cabinet secretary Helen MacNamara. She accused him of showing "nuclear levels" of confidence at the start of the pandemic.

She claimed that Mr Hancock "regularly" told colleagues in Downing Street things "they later discovered weren't true".

Ms MacNamara said he would say things were under control or being sorted in meetings, only for it to emerge in days or weeks that "was not in fact the case".

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The former senior civil servant also recalled a "jarring" incident when she told Mr Hancock that it must have been difficult to be health secretary during a pandemic.

She said he responded by miming playing cricket, adding: "They bowl them at me, I knock them away" during the first lockdown.

Mr Hancock currently sits as an independent MP in the Commons after he lost the Tory party whip for appearing on ITV's I'm A Celebrity reality TV show. .

In December 2022 he announced he would not stand for the Conservatives in the next general election.