Matt Hancock has refused to apologize after the High Court ruled the government illegally failed to disclose information on billions of pounds worth of coronavirus contracts.
The Minister of Health was asked to be more accountable after a judge said he had not published redacted contracts under the transparency policy.
However, Mr Hancock insisted that transparency returns lawsuits were “second order” to save lives, saying his officers worked long hours to obtain PPE instead.
He told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, “People can see for themselves whether I should have told my team to stop buying PPE and spend the time trying to see those transparency returns a little more than two weeks to advance.
“Or whether I was right to buy the PPE and bring it to the front. You tell me this is wrong You can not. And the reason you can’t is because it was the right thing to do.
“Legal cases about the timing of the return on transparency are completely secondary compared to saving human lives.
“There isn’t a health minister in history who felt that he had to get people off the project of buying PPE to make sure the health minister didn’t have a slightly bumpy interview about the Marr program nine months later.”
“It’s not about Andrew (Marr), it’s about doing the right thing.”
He had previously told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that he would publish the contracts required by law and that the contracts were published on average “a little more than two weeks later than they should have been”.
“My officers, with my full support, spent every waking hour buying PPE, so in this country, even though we were approaching, we were never really out of PPE – and they did, even though the paperwork was on average a little more delayed two weeks.
“That is what the court found and I – and I think any Secretary of State in my position – would absolutely support my officials in doing the right thing and saving lives.”
His comments came after Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy told the BBC that Mr. Hancock “should publish the contracts because the court found them unlawful”.
“He should terminate the temporary system he is using without accountability or transparency. He should come to Parliament on Monday and explain what he’s going to do.
“To be honest, it’s outrageous. This is the kind of behavior you would expect in a banana republic when giving contracts to your landlord and best buddy. “
Union leader Sir Keir Starmer did not urge Mr Hancock to resign in an interview with Sky.
Shadow Cabinet Secretary Rachel Reeves has written to the Minister of Health asking him to undertake “to publish all outstanding contracts, abolish emergency procurement powers and reinstate tendering”.
She said, “Matt Hancock cannot just abolish this court ruling. He must commit to eliminating the cronyism and waste that undermined government contracts during the pandemic. “
The Good Law Project has taken legal action against the Department of Health and Social Welfare (DHSC) for “failing wholesale” to disclose details of contracts made during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The government is required by law to issue a “contract award notice” within 30 days of the award of a contract for any public goods or service worth more than £ 120,000.
At a hearing earlier this month, the Good Law Project and three MPs – Debbie Abrahams of Labor, Caroline Lucas of the Green Party and Liberal Democrat Layla Moran – argued that the DHSC had “bleakly” failed to meet its commitment.
They also alleged the government was in breach of its own transparency policy, which requires disclosure of details of public contracts worth more than £ 10,000.
In a ruling on Friday, Justice Chamberlain said: “It is undisputed that in a significant number of cases the Secretary of State has breached his legal obligation to publish contract award notices within 30 days of contract award.
“It is also undisputed that the Foreign Minister did not publish any edited contracts in accordance with the transparency policy.”
The judge said the obligation to publish details of such contracts “performs an important public function and that function is no less important during a pandemic”.