Health Secretary Matt Hancock is facing growing pressure to resign after he was caught kissing a close aide in breach of Covid-19 restrictions.
Calls for his resignation come after video footage of Mr Hancock in an embrace with Gina Coladangelo was published on Friday (25 June) night, following stills from the CCTV earlier in the day, prompting Labour to deem his position “hopelessly untenable”.
The Covid-19 Bereaved Families For Justice group, representing those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic, have urged the Prime Minister to relieve him of his job, saying his actions broke the “position of neutrality on ministerial conduct”.
Calls for resignation
Lawyers say Mr Hancock may have broken the law regarding coronavirus restrictions, although he has only admitted to breaching guidance.
The Health Secretary said he was “very sorry” for letting people down, after The Sun first reported he was having an extramarital affair with his close aide.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has so far resisted calls to sack Mr Hancock over the breach, with a Downing Street spokesman saying he had accepted his apology and “considers the matter closed”.
In a statement issued on Friday (25 June), Mr Hancock apologised for his actions, saying: “I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances, I have let people down and am very sorry.
“I remain focused on working to get the country out of this pandemic, and would be grateful for privacy for my family on this personal matter.”
Mr Hancock, 42, has been married for 15 years to wife Martha, and the pair have three children. Mrs Coladangelo, 43, is also married with three children.
She became a non-executive director at the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) last year, but questions have now been raised over her appointment in the role in the first place.
A clear breach of regulations
The Metropolitan Police has said it will not be investigating any offences, which allegedly took place last month, because “as a matter of course the MPS is not investigating Covid related issues retrospectively”.
Human rights barrister Adam Wagner has said the footage of Mr Hancock shows a clear breach of coronavirus regulations on social distancing, as it was illegal at the time for any indoor gatherings unless an exemption applied.
He told BBC News: “I am pretty clear, although you never know for sure, that there was a breach of the regulations, on the basis that at the time it was illegal to have any gathering of more than one person anywhere indoors unless an exception applied.
“The only one that could reasonably be said to apply or possibly said to apply would be that this was reasonably necessary for work purposes.
“But based on what we know and what we can see in the images, it doesn’t seem that that was reasonably necessary for work purposes.”
Mr Hancock is also accused of breaking the ministerial code and in a letter to Mr Johnson, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said Lord Geidt, the independent adviser on ministerial interests, should probe Mr Hancock’s behaviour.
Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said if Mr Hancock, who has been married to the mother of his three children, Martha, for 15 years, had been secretly having a relationship with an adviser he appointed to a taxpayer-funded role, it was “a blatant abuse of power and a clear conflict of interest”.
However, a No 10 spokesman insisted the “correct procedure” had been followed in relation to Mrs Coladangelo’s appointment, but refused to go into detail.
Who is Gina Coladangelo?
Mrs Coladangelo, who is married to the founder of the retailer Oliver Bonas, Oliver Tress, is a friend of Mr Hancock’s from their days together at Oxford University.
She was appointed to the DHSC last year and was initially taken on as an unpaid adviser on a six-month contract in March 2020.
She later went on to be appointed as a non-executive director at the department, earning at least £15,000.
However, there was no public record of the appointment.