SCOTTISH Labour leadership hopeful Monica Lennon has called for Matt Hancock to step down over a court ruling which found he had acted unlawfully in failing to publish details of billions of pounds’ worth of coronavirus-related contracts within the required time.

Her stance puts her at odds with Labour chief Keir Starmer, who said yesterday the UK Health Secretary should should not resign over the matter.

A High Court judge ruled on Friday that not publishing details of the deals within the 30-day period required by law breached the “vital public function” of transparency over how “vast quantities” of taxpayers’ money was spent.

“Matt Hancock acted unlawfully and should no longer be in his post,” Lennon told The National.

“The judge ruled that the public had a right to know where vast amounts of public money had gone and how contracts were awarded.”

READ MORE: Matt Hancock refuses to resign over unlawful ruling on Covid contracts

Appearing on Sky News this morning, Hancock was asked if he would resign over the matter and he said he would not.

“No, that’s not quite right,” he told presenter Sophy Ridge.

“The court case did not find there was a problem with any of the contracts. It found that whereas we are supposed to publish the details of the contracts within 30 days of them being signed, on average we published them at the heat of the crisis on average 47 days after they were signed.”

Last year, UK ministers and officials refused to admit which companies were awarded multi-million-pound Covid-19 contracts after being processed in a high-priority channel for firms with political connections.

A report by the National Audit Office said a government unit, set up to procure PPE in a highly unusual departure from standard procurement practice, established the high-priority lane to deal with leads “from government officials, ministers’ offices, MPs and members of the House of Lords, senior NHS staff and other health professionals”.

Almost 500 companies given high priority due to such connections secured contracts to supply PPE with 10 times the success rate of nearly 15,000 companies that were not given enhanced attention.

The Health Secretary told Sky: “On average, we published them just over a fortnight later than they should have been, and there’s a reason for that, and the reason is that there was a global shortage of PPE and we needed to buy PPE to save lives.”

He said the Government would “commit to publishing on the standard basis what is legally required and what is normal to publish”.

READ MORE: Conservative ‘corruption’ puts UK politics at major turning point, SNP MP says

Starmer did not call for Hancock’s resignation, telling Sky News: “I don’t want to call for him to resign. I do think he is wrong about the contracts – there have been problems with the contracts, on transparency, on who the contracts have gone to.

“There’s been a lot of wasted money and I think that is a real cause for concern.

“But, at the moment, at this stage of the pandemic, I want all government ministers working really hard to get us through.”

The SNP were asked whether Hancock should resign. MP Owen Thompson said Parliament must press him on the matter after it returns from recess this week.

“The High Court’s ruling that Matt Hancock acted unlawfully over his department’s handling of contracts raises serious questions over how the Tory Government has spent billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, and the manner in which it has rewarded friends, party donors and acquaintances with lucrative contracts,” said Thompson.

“The UK Government cannot simply brush this under the carpet. It is now vital that when Parliament returns from recess that the Health Secretary comes before Parliament to address the High Court’s ruling.

“With Tory cronyism rampant in government, it is vital that opposition parties now back my bill to ensure UK Government ministers are held to account over their decisions and that there is transparency over how taxpayers’ money is spent.”