‘I’ve tried my hardest’ – Matt Hancock gives final speech as MP

“I’ve tried my hardest”, Matt Hancock told MPs as he gave his final speech in the Commons.

He also stated that the vaccine programme was “without doubt one of the country’s finest achievements in peacetime”.

The former health secretary resigned from his cabinet position in 2021 after admitting breaking social distancing guidance by having an affair with a colleague.

Mr Hancock – who had the Conservative whip suspended for appearing on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here – spoke from the Tory benches on Friday after having the whip reinstated.

The member for West Suffolk said he “couldn’t finish without a word about the NHS”.

He told MPs: “For 18 months, I thoroughly enjoyed myself trying to improve the tech in the health service but then of course, the pandemic struck.

“And I want for one last time to say thank you to all of those who rose to the occasion and did so much to get us through, to deliver the safety that was needed, for instance, the shielding programme which isn’t mentioned as much as it should be for protecting those who were most vulnerable.

“And, of course, the vaccine programme which was without doubt one of the country’s finest achievements in peacetime. I want to thank colleagues with whom I worked incredibly closely and who helped make that happen. And some of you are heroes of the pandemic too.”

He concluded: “It is impossible to win unless you truly want to serve your country. I believe that everybody comes into this place wanting to make their country a better place.

“I’ve tried my hardest to do that for 14 years, to reach out, to try to do things differently and to try to embrace the future. It’s been an honour and a privilege and I thank you.”

Earlier in his contribution he thanked his children saying: “The impact of the scrutiny of politics, especially when people make mistakes, has a huge impact on them, and they have put up with a lot.”

He added: “But politics also, I’d reflect, is noisier and it’s harder than it was 14 years ago when I first came into Parliament. The nature of social media has made it more difficult and the nature of the world has made it sadly, more dangerous.”

Elsewhere in the session, other Conservative backbenchers not running for re-election gave their final speeches.

Tory colleagues Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole), Sir Robert Neil (Bromley and Chislehurst) and Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) spoke of the areas they would like to campaign further on.

Referring to probation services and his work in the all party parliamentary group on Gibraltar, Sir Robert said: “My only regret perhaps in my farewell being brought forward somewhat unexpectedly is that there is still business undone, still things I’d like to return to.”

Mr Percy said he was disappointed to be stepping down when “Jew hate” and antisemitism were rising in the UK.

He told the Commons: “I am so proud to have served in this place. It is an amazing privilege to get the opportunity but I am sad to be leaving at a time when a couple of issues particularly close to my heart are in the news and are of such a concern.”

He added: “It breaks my heart to see Jewish people in this country frightened and afraid to go about their business in this country showing their faith. It’s a stain on our democracy.”

Mr Loughton, a former junior minister in the Department for Education, called for the Government to focus on children’s social care. He said: “We should never forget that children and young people are 20% of the population, but 100% of our future, and we lose sight of that at our peril.

“And we have not done enough on children’s social care, and it is a false economy not to be doing it as early as possible, and not to be working on prevention rather than have to firefight the symptoms of the neglect.”

Conservative MPs Chloe Smith (Norwich North), Nickie Aiken (Cities of London and Westminster) and Dehenna Davison (Bishop Aukland) reflected on their achievements while in Parliament.

Ms Smith said: “It is literally my fault that we’re having a snap election. It was me who legislated for the removal of the fixed term Parliament Act that allowed the Prime Minister to call it whenever he chose so I’m sorry for the emotional roller coaster.”

She highlighted the British Sign Language Act as she called for members to make their election campaigns accessible, and referred to Rishi Sunak’s election announcement, saying: “I’m afraid to say that does go on from making sure that there is a sign language interpreter, whether it is raining or not in Downing Street.”

Ms Aiken said she was the first female MP to represent the Cities of London and Westminster, and described her campaign to regulate pedicabs as her “life’s work”.

Ms Davison said: “I think the thing that I am most proud of at a national level is of course the awareness that my team and I have managed to bring to the issue of one-punch assaults.”

She has secured a review of one-punch assaults after her father Dominic died after a single blow to the head in 2007.