HEALTH Secretary Matt Hancock was forced to resign on Saturday afternoon despite repeated public statements from PM Boris Johnson that he retained his full confidence.
Hancock quit after a still frame from a video of him kissing and embracing his colleague Gina Coladangelo inside the Department of Health on 6th May was published in the Sun newspaper last Friday.
The footage led ministers and former ministers to question yesterday how such footage could have been captured within a government department, and also how it had reached the Sun newspaper.
On the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show Tory Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said: ‘It’s something we need to get to the bottom of. Quite rightly what happens in government departments can be sensitive and important, so yes, I do know that is something the Department of Health will be taking forward as an internal investigation.’
Former Labour MP Alan Johnson insisted: ‘There was never a camera in my office when I was health secretary.’
Speaking on the same programme, Jeremy Hunt, Hancock’s predecessor as health secretary, said: ‘It is completely unacceptable from a security point of view that ministers are being filmed from inside their own offices without their knowledge, and so there will be issues that our intelligence agencies will want to look at very, very carefully.’
Asked if the leak was a breach of the Official Secrets Act and whether the police should be involved, Hunt said ‘possibly’.
However, the Metropolitan Police said it was ‘aware of the distribution of images alleged to have been obtained within an official government premises’, but: ‘No criminal investigation has been launched. At this time this remains a matter for the relevant government department.’
The Daily Mail newspaper has obtained a spate of emails appearing to prove that Hancock helped his friend win a hefty Covid-19 contract last year.
The emails reveal that Hancock personally referred former publican Alex Bourne’s plea for business to a senior civil servant in the UK Department of Health and Social Care.
This was followed by Bourne securing a meeting with PM Johnson and reportedly clinching a £30 million deal to supply test tubes for use in National Health Service (NHS) coronavirus test kits.
Bourne, in turn, claimed on Saturday that he doesn’t know Hancock ‘well’ and that ‘this idea that I am chummy with him is not true’.
But according to the Mail, Bourne, ‘whose firm Hinpack Limited manufactured cups and cartons for the catering industry before the pandemic struck, has been friends with Hancock for many years’.
Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said that ‘the charge sheet against Matt Hancock grows by the hour’, adding, ‘these damning emails reveal the beleaguered Health Secretary misled the public over his help for his pub landlord friend winning lucrative public contracts’.
In December 2020 Hancock told reporters that he had ‘absolutely nothing to do with that contract’ and that he doesn’t have ‘anything to do with the signing of individual contracts’.
Meanwhile, appointing Sajid Javid as the new health secretary is like ‘putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop’, Ashworth also said yesterday.
‘Sajid Javid was a leading advocate for, indeed an architect of, the austerity that has afflicted the NHS these last 10 years, which has weakened it,’ he added.