Matt Hancock Faces Questions Over Whether He Has Broken Covid-19 Law
Matt Hancock faces questions over whether images appearing to show him in a physical encounter with colleague Gina Coladangelo mean he has breached the government's coronavirus laws.
On Friday morning The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care was still yet to comment on CCTV pictures leaked to The Sun that appear to show him embracing Coladangelo, leading to claims that he was having an extra-marrital affair.
Labour has called Hancock's position "hopelessly untenable" following the publication of the images.
Hancock appointed Coladangelo, a former university friend, as a non-executive director at the Department of Health Social Care (DHSC) last year. A government spokesperson told the BBC the appointment happened in "the usual way" and didn't break any rules.
However, Hancock and Downing Street are now under pressure to explain how Hancock's apparent tryst with Coladangelo, which The Sun says was recorded inside DHSC on Thursday, May 6, was compatible with coronavirus laws in place at the time.
The law at this stage of the government's coronavirus roadmap stated "no person may participate in a gathering" which "consists of two or more people" and "takes place indoors".
There were exceptions for workplace meetings. However, these were only for "reasonably necessary" purposes. The Sun says the pictures show Hancock and Coladangelo kissing in Hancock's office.
Laws forbidding people from mixing indoors were not relaxed until May 17.
Speaking a day before that relaxation, Hancock said "we all have a personal responsibility" and that even after May 17 "it is still better to meet outside".
Hancock has told colleagues he expects to remain in post, according to The Daily Mail.
However, the minister did not appear at a planned constituency event this morning, with Newmarket Racecourse organiser telling Sky News it was cancelled "early this morning".
Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, is considered the frontrunner to replace Hancock if he resigns, Conservative MPs have told PoliticsHome.
Labour has called for Hancock's resignation. “If Matt Hancock has been secretly having a relationship with an adviser in his office - who he personally appointed to a taxpayer-funded role - it is a blatant abuse of power and a clear conflict of interest," Anneliese Dodds said in a statement.
“The charge sheet against Matt Hancock includes wasting taxpayers’ money, leaving care homes exposed and now being accused of breaking his own COVID rules.
“His position is hopelessly untenable. Boris Johnson should sack him.”
Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, this morning suggested Hancock had not broken the law, telling LBC he was "quite sure that whatever the rules were at the time were followed”.
In a seperate interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he refused to comment on his colleague's "private" affairs.
"From a private point of view, people are entitled to their own judgments but people’s private lives are people’s private lives, and I don’t think it’s the place of politicians to go commenting on them," Shapps said.
DHSC has not responded to our request for comment.
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