Mr Javid told The Standard: “If the policy of Transport for London is wear a mask, which it is, people should respect that and absolutely wear a mask, I certainly would on the Tube.”
With winter approaching when viruses spread more easily, he added: “It’s actually common sense.
“The pandemic has not ended.
“We are in a much, much better place than we were before, the vaccines are working.
“But there is still Covid around and if you are in a crowded place like the Tube, rush hour, it’s absolutely sensible to wear a mask.”
Latest TfL customer research found that from August 22 to September 18, 77 per cent of passengers claimed to wear a mask on every journey, down from 82 per cent between July 25 and August 21.
In the wide-ranging interview, Mr Javid also:
- Told how he will unveil at Tory conference next week new details on NHS reforms, including on far greater digitalisation, to ensure billions extra being ploughed into the health service are spent “incredibly carefully”.
- Insisted there was “very strong support” among Tory members for the extra investment in the NHS and to tackle the social care crisis funded by hikes in National Insurance and higher tax on dividends.
- Voiced “deep concerns” over health inequalities in London, including that male life expectancy in Barking and Dagenham is nearly seven years less than in Westminster.
- Urged more businesses in the capital to help to close the city’s huge wealth divide.
- Pledged that the Government’s “levelling-up” agenda would benefit areas such as Barking and Dagenham, and Tottenham, rather than just deprived communities in the North and Midlands.
- Stressed that the Government had “made its decision” on axing the £20-a-week uplift in Universal Credit, despite calls from Tory and other MPs for it to reconsider, as the economy recovers with more jobs available.
Mr Javid was speaking at the Mosaic Clubhouse in Brixton, known for its excellent mental health support, ahead of the launch of the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities.
The new body, which will receive professional leadership from England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, aims to tackle “unacceptable” health disparities across the country to help people to live longer, encourage healthier lives and reduce the pressure on the health and care system.
Health chiefs highlighted, as an example of disparities, that a man in Barking and Dagenham can expect to live 77 years, compared to 84.7 in Westminster.
While London has the lowest regional proportion of adults who are overweight or obese, at 55 per cent, it also has the second highest percentage of Year Six children who are obese (including severely obese) at 23.7 per cent.
Asked about the lower life expectancy in the East London borough, Mr Javid said: “It’s deeply concerning.
“When it comes to health outcomes, take life expectancy for example, within England between the different regions, there is a big difference, if you look at say Blackpool versus London, generally Blackpool a lot lower life expectancy.
“But even within the same regions, so in our great city, the example Barking and Dagenham and Westminster…and you are losing life expectancy rapidly.
“That is something that has been around for many years and it’s one of the key reasons that I want a much bigger focus on these health disparities and improvement of them.
“It’s not going to happen overnight, people understand that, but it’s why I have set up the new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities.”
However, there are worries that the Government’s “levelling-up” agenda will not extend to London and will instead focus just on the North and Midlands as the Conservatives seek to hold onto former Labour “Red Wall” seats won in 2019.
Pressed on whether deprived communities in the capital would also benefit from levelling-up, Mr Javid said: “Absolutely”.
“Levelling up is about making sure all parts of England, in this case, the UK more broadly, are benefiting from whether it’s economic growth, a focus on housing, a focus on health outcomes.”
This should also happen at the “local, regional level”.
He added: “So, in London, for example…I want to, let’s say, level up in Barking and Dagenham, or Tottenham, which ever part of London it is, versus other parts that have fewer of those health challenges.”
Mr Javid, a former banker, also piled pressure on more businesses in London to help to tackle the extraordinary wealth divide in the capital.
“There are some businesses in London that do a really good job of reaching out to communities, whether that is themselves or through charities, supporting local charities, there are others that clearly could do more,” he cajoled.
“I don’t want to name names but it’s not that hard to find out, look at their public disclosures.”
With many communities having “come together” during the Covid-19 pandemic, he added: “There is an increasing desire among the public to see businesses playing their part, whether that’s helping the communities directly by supporting community initiatives, like Mosaic Clubhouse, or on other really important issues where business has a role to play like fighting climate change and protecting our biodiversity.”
Ahead of the Tory annual conference which starts in Manchester at the weekend, Mr Javid signalled his speech would focus on further NHS reforms after the £12 billion boost for the health service and social care.
“It’s really important that that money is spent incredibly carefully, it’s tapayers’ money,” he explained.
“I’ll be very focused on what kind of reforms we need to make to ensure that.”
Pressed to give an example, he said: “There is a need for more digitalisation in the NHS, more use of tech, patients would welcome that as well as the clinicians, and those parts of the NHS that have already gone down that road they have shown how it works for patients.”
He described the increases in National Insurance, in the spring, to boost the NHS and social care as a “tough decision”.
But he added: “I think there is very, very strong support in the party for the general direction, particular for the Prime Minister, and also in terms of our recent decisions around for example the health and care levy.
“I think there is also a very strong understanding that it is the right thing to do.”
Some Tory MPs fear the ending of the £20 uplift in Universal Credit in coming days will turn into a “Poll Tax Mark II”.
But with the boost costing £6 billion-a-year, the Health Secretary said: “The Government has made its decision and when that increase in Universal Credit was set out, it was always clear that it would have to be temporary.”
It was in response to the economic fall-out from the Covid pandemic but the country was now coming out of it, he added, and with hundreds of thousands of job opportunities, he argued: “The Government is right to stick to its plans.”