Matt Hancock

Matthew John David Hancock (born 2 October 1978) is a British politician serving as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care since 2018. He previously served as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in 2018 for six months. A member of the Conservative Party, he has been Member of Parliament (MP) for West Suffolk since 2010.

Matt Hancock

Official portrait of Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP crop 2.jpg
Hancock in 2020
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Assumed office
9 July 2018
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Boris Johnson
Preceded byJeremy Hunt
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
In office
8 January 2018 – 9 July 2018
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byKaren Bradley
Succeeded byJeremy Wright
Minister of State for Digital and Culture
In office
15 July 2016 – 8 January 2018
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byEd Vaizey
Succeeded byMargot James
Minister for the Cabinet Office
Paymaster General
In office
11 May 2015 – 14 July 2016
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byFrancis Maude
Succeeded byBen Gummer
Minister of State for Business and Enterprise
In office
15 July 2014 – 11 May 2015
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byMichael Fallon
Succeeded byAnna Soubry
Minister of State for Energy
In office
15 July 2014 – 11 May 2015
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byMichael Fallon
Succeeded byAndrea Leadsom
Minister of State for Portsmouth
In office
15 July 2014 – 11 May 2015
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byMichael Fallon
Succeeded byMark Francois
Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise
In office
8 September 2013 – 15 July 2014
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byJohn Hayes
Succeeded byNick Boles
Member of Parliament
for West Suffolk
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded byRichard Spring
Majority23,194 (45.1%)
Personal details
Matthew John David Hancock

(1978-10-02) 2 October 1978 (age 42)
Chester, Cheshire, England
Political partyConservative
Martha Hoyer Millar
(m. 2006)
EducationThe King's School, Chester
Alma mater

Hancock was born in Cheshire, where his family runs a software business. Hancock studied for a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Exeter College, Oxford, and an MPhil in Economics at Christ's College, Cambridge, as a postgraduate student. He was an economist at the Bank of England before serving as a senior economic adviser and then later Chief of Staff to Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

Hancock served as a junior Minister at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills from September 2013 to May 2015. He attended David Cameron's Cabinet as Minister for the Cabinet Office from 2015 to 2016. After Theresa May became Prime Minister in 2016, Hancock was demoted to Minister of State for Digital and Culture. He was promoted to May's Cabinet in the January 2018 cabinet reshuffle when he was appointed Culture Secretary.[1]

On 9 July 2018, after the promotion of Jeremy Hunt to Foreign Secretary, Hancock was named as his replacement as Health and Social Care Secretary.[2] On 25 May 2019, his intention to stand in the 2019 Conservative Party leadership election. He withdrew from the race on 14 June shortly after the first ballot. After endorsing Boris Johnson, he was retained in his cabinet in July 2019. He has served as Health Secretary during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom.

Early life and career

Matthew John David Hancock was born on 2 October 1978 in Chester, Cheshire, to Michael Hancock and Shirley Hills (now Carter).[3] Hancock attended Farndon County Primary School, in Farndon, Cheshire, and the independent King's School, Chester. He took A-levels in maths, physics, computing and economics.[4] He later studied computing at the further education college, West Cheshire College.[5][6] He studied at Exeter College, Oxford, and graduated with a first in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and earned a MPhil degree in Economics at Christ's College, Cambridge a few years later.[6][7] Hancock became a member of the Conservative Party in 1999.[8]

After university, Hancock briefly worked for his family's computer software company[9] and for a backbench Conservative MP,[4] before moving to London to work as an economist at the Bank of England, specialising in the housing market. In 2005, he became an economic adviser to the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, later becoming Osborne's chief of staff.[7][10]

Early parliamentary career

Hancock was selected as the Conservative candidate for West Suffolk in January 2010. He narrowly won the contest, defeating Natalie Elphicke (solicitor and wife of politician Charlie Elphicke, who later succeeded her husband as MP for Dover), by 88 votes to 81 in the final ballot.[11] He was elected as the constituency's MP at the 2010 general election with 24,312 votes, 13,050 votes ahead of Liberal Democrat candidate Belinda Brooks-Gordon.[12] In June, Hancock was elected to the Public Accounts Committee, the select committee responsible for overseeing government expenditures to ensure they are effective and honest.[13] He served on this committee until November 2012. Hancock has also served on the Standards and Privileges Committee between October 2010 and December 2012.[14]

In January 2013, he was accused of dishonesty by Daybreak presenter Matt Barbet after claiming he had been excluded from a discussion about apprentices after turning up "just 30 seconds late".[15] Barbet said Hancock knew he was "much more than a minute late" and he should have arrived half an hour beforehand to prepare for the interview. An activist who was due to appear with Hancock expressed surprise that "a minister whose Government berates 'shirkers' couldn't be bothered to get out of bed to defend his own policy".[15]

Junior ministerial roles

In October 2013, Hancock joined the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as the Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise.[16]

On 15 July 2014, Hancock was appointed to the position of Minister of State for Business and Enterprise. He also took on additional responsibilities as the Minister of State for Portsmouth. On 27 July, he announced protection from fracking for National Parks,[17] seen as a method of reducing anger in Conservative constituencies ahead of the election.[18] Interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, he rejected the suggestion that fracking was highly unpopular but when challenged was unable to name a single village which supported it.[18][19]

In his role as Minister of State for Energy, he was criticised for hiring a private jet to fly back from a climate conference[20] and accepting money[21] from a key backer of climate change denial organisation Global Warming Policy Foundation. In October 2014, he apologised after retweeting a poem suggesting that the Labour Party was "full of queers", describing his actions as a "total accident".[19][22]

Hancock became Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General on 11 May 2015.[23] He headed David Cameron's "earn or learn" taskforce which aimed to have every young person earning or learning from April 2017. He announced that jobless 18- to 21-year-olds would be required to do work experience as well as looking for jobs, or face losing their benefits.[24]

In the 2016 UK referendum on EU membership, Hancock supported the UK remaining within the EU.[25]

Hancock moved to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as the Minister of State for Digital and Culture on 15 July 2016 after Theresa May became Prime Minister.[26] As minister for digital policy, Hancock in June 2017 recommitted to a "full fibre" digital policy. This promised that 97% of the UK would enjoy "superfast broadband" at speeds of at least 24 megabits per second by 2020.[27]

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

On 8 January 2018, Hancock was appointed Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in Theresa May's 2018 cabinet reshuffle, succeeding Karen Bradley.[28] On his first day in the role he criticised the BBC for the amounts of pay its foreign journalists received and said that some men at the corporation were paid "far more than equivalent public servants".[29]

In early 2018, Hancock was the first MP to launch his own smartphone app,[30] which was meant as a social network for him to communicate with his constituents and give people updates in relation to his cabinet role.[31] The head of privacy rights group Big Brother Watch called the app a "fascinating comedy of errors",[32] after the app was found to collect its users' photographs, friend details, check-ins, and contact information.[33]

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

Following the appointment of Jeremy Hunt to the position of Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Hancock was appointed to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on 9 July 2018.[34]

In November 2018, Hancock was criticised after appearing to endorse a mobile phone health app marketed by the subscription health service company Babylon in the Evening Standard. Babylon allegedly sponsored the newspaper article. Justin Madders wrote to Theresa May accusing Hancock of repeatedly endorsing the products of a company that receives NHS funds for patients it treats, which contravenes ministerial guidelines. The ministerial code includes that ministers should not "normally accept invitations to act as patrons of, or otherwise offer support to, pressure groups or organisations dependent in whole or in part on government funding".[35]

In April 2019, Hancock, who had previously said the NHS would face "no privatisation on my watch", was criticised for allowing 21 NHS contracts worth £127 million to be tendered.[36]

Hancock continued in his role as Health Secretary in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's cabinet. He supported the prorogation of parliament in 2019 by Johnson which he had previously opposed while running for the leadership of the Conservative Party earlier in the year.[37] The prorogation was later ruled on 24 September as unlawful by the Supreme Court.[38]

In a September 2019 Channel 4 News interview, Hancock was asked to respond to allegations Boris Johnson had, at a private lunch in 1999, groped the leg of journalist Charlotte Edwardes under a table. Edwardes also claimed that Johnson did the same to another woman at the same private lunch. In his reply to the Channel 4 News question, Hancock said of Charlotte Edwardes, "I know Charlotte well and I entirely trust what she has to say. I know her and I know her to be trustworthy", a view shared by fellow Conservative MP Amber Rudd. Both Johnson and anonymous Downing Street officials denied the allegation.[39][40][41]

Hancock drew criticism in November 2019, following the total seclusion of 18-year-old Bethany, an autistic teenager, for almost 3 years in the tiny rooms of psychiatric facilities across Britain. The minister publicly apologised "for the things that have gone wrong in her care" and claimed her case in particular was "incredibly difficult and complex". Bethany's case attracted national attention towards the detention of hundreds of young people living with autism or other learning disabilities in Britain, and demanded an inquiry into the mental health system by a parliamentary committee.[42]

2019 Conservative Party leadership candidacy

After Theresa May announced her intention to resign as Prime Minister, Hancock announced his intention to stand for the Conservative Party leadership. During this campaign, Hancock opposed the prorogation of parliament to deliver Brexit and called on his fellow leadership candidates to join him on 6 June 2019.[43] He proposed a televised debate with other candidates.[44] He withdrew from the race on 14 June shortly after winning only twenty votes on the first ballot.[45] Following his withdrawal, he endorsed Boris Johnson for the role.[46]

COVID-19 pandemic

On 31 January 2020, COVID-19 was confirmed to have spread to the UK, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hancock said the government was considering "some quite significant actions that would have social and economic disruption".[47] After the government gave strict social distancing advice which was defied by large numbers of people, Hancock took a stronger line than the prime minister on condemning those still socialising in groups and derided them as being "very selfish".[48] The government later implemented legislation banning such groups from forming.[49]

On 27 March 2020, along with Boris Johnson, Hancock himself tested positive for COVID-19.[50] He stayed in self-isolation with mild symptoms for seven days, before delivering an update on COVID-19 testing targets and on government plans to write off £13.4 billion of NHS debt.[51][52][53]

In April 2020, Hancock was criticised when it emerged that the target he had set for 100,000 daily COVID-19 tests had been met only by changing the method of counting, to include up to 40,000 home test kits which had been sent, but not yet completed.[54] This change was challenged by the UK Statistics Authority[55] and labelled a "Potemkin testing regime".[56]

On 5 April 2020, Hancock threatened to ban all outdoor exercise in the UK in response to COVID-19 if people did not follow social distancing rules, saying "So my message is really clear. If you don't want us to have to take the step to ban exercise of all forms outside of your own home then you've got to follow the rules and the vast majority people are following the rules."[57]

Hancock received criticism for perceived sexism after suggesting on 5 May 2020 that Labour MP and shadow health minister Rosena Allin-Khan change the "tone" of her comments.[58] Allin-Khan, a doctor, had stated in Parliament a lack of testing was costing lives when Hancock suggested she should "take a leaf out of the Shadow Secretary of State's [Jonathan Ashworth's] book in terms of tone".[59]

On 15 August 2020 The Telegraph reported that Hancock was to merge Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace into a new body called the National Institute for Health Protection, modelled on the Robert Koch Institute. The new body was set up before autumn and "a feared surge in coronavirus cases".[60]

On 11 October 2020, Hancock denied breaching a 10 pm drinking curfew in the Smoking Room bar in the House of Commons, put in place because of the pandemic.[61][62][63] Eight days later the Daily Mirror published a photograph of him riding in his chauffeur-driven car without wearing a mask.[64]

On 21 October 2020, Hancock voted with the government against extending free school meals.[65]

Personal life

Hancock married Martha Hoyer Millar, an osteopath, in 2006.[3] She is a granddaughter of Frederick Millar, 1st Baron Inchyra.[66] They have a daughter and two sons.[7][67] They live in Little Thurlow in his West Suffolk parliamentary constituency.[68] Hancock has an older sister and a brother.[69] He has dyslexia.[70]

Hancock trained as a jockey in 2012 and won a horse race in his constituency town of Newmarket.[4]

Hancock supports Newcastle United, and auctioned his 'pride and joy' signed team shirt to raise money for the NHS in May 2020.[71][72]


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External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Richard Spring
Member of Parliament
for West Suffolk

Political offices
Preceded by
John Hayes
Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise
Succeeded by
Nick Boles
Preceded by
Michael Fallon
Minister of State for Business and Enterprise
Succeeded by
Anna Soubry
as Minister of State for Small Business
Minister of State for Energy
Succeeded by
Andrea Leadsom
Minister of State for Portsmouth
Succeeded by
Mark Francois
Preceded by
Francis Maude
Minister for the Cabinet Office
Succeeded by
Ben Gummer
Paymaster General
Preceded by
Ed Vaizey
Minister of State for Digital and Culture
Succeeded by
Margot James
Preceded by
Karen Bradley
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Succeeded by
Jeremy Wright
Preceded by
Jeremy Hunt
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care