Sun-tanned Matt Hancock mocked in first Commons appearance since leaving jungle
Matt Hancock has been gently mocked after returning to Parliament for the first time since his controversial stint on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!
Before the former health secretary opened the second reading debate of his Dyslexia Screening and Teacher Training Bill, Commons Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans joked: “This is the third Bill of the day and I know Mr Hancock you appear to be making a habit of coming third these days, so…”
The now-independent MP for West Suffolk, who was sporting a new sun-tan thanks to his weeks in Australia, finished third on the reality show and replied, somewhat awkwardly: “I am not quite sure what to make of that. But I am honoured to be third today and let’s see how that goes."
He then tried to make a joke about his appearance saying, to a smattering of chuckles: “It’s also a pleasure to be here and to be clean and well-fed.”
Watch Matt Hancock's speech on returning to parliament
Responding to Hancock's speech, which lasted some 15 minutes, education minister Claire Coutinho thanked him for putting a spotlight on an issue that affects around 10% of people in the UK.
The former health secretary, who is dyslexic, had defended his appearance on I’m a Celebrity by saying he would use it to raise awareness of his campaign for school pupils to be screened for the condition.
However, by the end of his time on the reality show the Politico London Playbook newsletter had recorded just three mentions of dyslexia during his two-and-a-half week stint in the jungle.
His speech is not the first time Hancock has spoken about the issue in the Commons and, according to the TheyWorkforYou website, was at least the eighth time he has referred to dyslexia in parliament since November 2021.
He is currently sitting as an independent MP having been suspended from the Conservative parliamentary party after choosing to head to Australia at a time when Parliament was sitting.
His appearance was met with criticism across the board, including from his constituents, Rishi Sunak and fellow campmates. He will reportedly be paid £400,000 for his time in the jungle, but will donate an unspecified portion of this to charity.
Hancock became a household name as one of the controversial faces of the UK's coronavirus pandemic response.
He was health secretary from the onset of the pandemic, before resigning in June 2021 after being caught breaking his own government's social distancing rules while having an affair with his colleague Gina Colangelo.
The pair are now in a relationship and Colangelo greeted him on live TV during the I'm a Celebrity finale on Sunday.
Hancock's dyslexia bill, first introduced to Parliament in June, aims to make provision for dyslexia screening in primary schools and provision for teacher training on neurodivergent conditions.
Friday's debate about the bill was the second reading: the second of 11 parliamentary hoops a bill must go through before it can gain Royal Assent to become law.
During his speech, Hancock said: There is a gaping hole in the government’s literary drive, because shockingly one in five dyslexic children get identified in school. Just one in five. These are on the department’s own figures.
“And in fact when I found these figures from the Rose report over 10 years ago, I then asked the department… what the updated figure was, because I thought one in five was such a shockingly low figure, and I found that it hasn’t changed over the last decade.”
He added: “Without early identification we will never reach full literacy. Because the success in driving up literacy requires us to next support those who have the most difficulty in increasing their literacy.
“So the next stage of the education revolution under this administration must be to improve opportunities that dyslexic children and children with other neurodivergent conditions have.”