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Matt Hancock affair: Camera that caught aide kiss has been disabled, says new health secretary

Written by on 28 June 2021

The camera that caught Matt Hancock kissing his aide has been disabled, new health secretary Sajid Javid says.

Mr Javid said the device has been “disabled by the department”, adding that he does not believe ministers’ offices should have cameras fitted.

Asked about the device on Monday morning, Mr Javid said: “I haven’t disabled the camera that you are talking about, but it has been disabled by the department.

New health secretary Sajid Javid is pictured outside his London home on Sunday Image: New health secretary Sajid Javid said the camera has been removed from his new office

“I think for security it is just common sense… I don’t think, as a general rule, there should be cameras in the secretary of state’s office.

“I’ve never known that in the other five departments that I’ve run and I am not really sure why there was one here.

“But I am sure there will be more to this as the whole incident is investigated.”

Earlier on Monday, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told Sky News he had asked for his office to be swept for “unauthorised devices” following the recording and leaking of footage of Matt Hancock from within the Department of Health and Social Care.

“I’ve never seen any camera facilities. I know there is CCTV in the building for obvious security reasons, but I am sure that many of my colleagues will be asking the same question and making sure that the offices are swept just in case there are unauthorised devices in there that could be a national security breach,” the justice secretary said.

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‘Regular’ office sweeps should be carried out, says justice secretary

“I think that is the sensible thing to do.”

Quizzed on when he asked whether there are cameras in his office, Mr Buckland added: “I asked on Friday, so I expect to have those answers later today.”

Ministers should have a “safe space” to work, he said.

And Conservative peer and former health secretary Lord Lansley said there should be “a whole range” of measures in place to stop ministers being bugged.

Lord Lansley told Sky News he believed there was a “regular sweep” of official offices for electronic devices.

Later in the morning, Mr Buckland revealed he had since learnt that there were no devices in his office.

Ministers will be questioned further about “security arrangements relating to ministerial offices and communications” in the Commons on Monday afternoon.

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Matt Hancock resigns in Twitter video

Conservative MP Peter Bone has been granted an urgent question by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle following the leak of CCTV footage which triggered the health secretary’s resignation.

Mr Buckland told Sky News he is “confident” that “due process” was followed in the appointment of Gina Coladangelo to a £15,000 role on the Department of Health board.

“Everything that I understand so far leads me to believe due process was followed in the appointment of this person and any declarations that should’ve been made were made,” he said.

“I have information that suggests due process was followed and I have no reason to doubt or dispute that.”

But the justice secretary added that he was not sure when Mr Hancock and Ms Coladangelo’s relationship began.

Meanwhile, Downing Street has suggested Mr Hancock personally appointed Ms Coladangelo as a non-executive director at Department of Health and Social Care.

“As far as I’m aware I believe ministers are entitled to make direct appointments and I believe that was the case in this instance,” the prime minister’s official spokesperson said.

The justice secretary also said there was an “understandable groundswell of concern” surrounding the situation and that Mr Hancock was “right” to resign from his post on Saturday.

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New role comes with ‘huge responsibility’ – Javid

And he noted that ministers should be using government emails as the former health secretary faces scrutiny for using a private account for official business.

“We should use government emails, I think that’s very clear,” he said.

“I think the Cabinet Office, if they’re asked to look at this, they probably will be, will need to satisfy themselves that if that was the case then the material is available.”

Labour has said the reported use of personal emails by Mr Hancock and health minister Lord Bethell to conduct government work should be investigated.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has called for the recovery of any emails relevant to a public inquiry into the pandemic response.

Downing Street insisted Mr Hancock not use personal email addresses for government business.

The PM’s official spokesman said: “Both the former health secretary and Lord Bethell understand the rules around personal email usage and only ever conducted government business through their departmental email addresses.”

UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said she is “looking carefully at the information that has come to light”.

“It is an important principle of government transparency and accountability that official records are kept of key actions and decisions,” she said.

“The issue of Ministers and senior officials using private email accounts to conduct sensitive official business is a concerning one for the public and is one my office has advised on before.

“I am looking carefully at the information that has come to light over the past few days and considering what further steps may be necessary to address the concerns raised with me.”

The justice secretary’s comments come amid the continued controversy surrounding Mr Hancock and his affair with a close friend and aide Ms Coladangelo.

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Angela Rayner: ‘We need full transparency’

Ms Coladangelo was pictured kissing Mr Hancock apparently inside the Department of Health building in May, in breach of COVID guidance at the time.

Announcing his resignation on Saturday, the former health secretary said “those who make these rules have to stick by them”.

In his letter, Mr Hancock said: “The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis.

“I want to reiterate my apology for breaking the guidance, and apologise to my family and loved ones for putting them through this. I also need (to) be with my children at this time.”

Former lobbyist Ms Coladangelo – who is married to the founder of fashion brand Oliver Bonas – was initially taken on as an unpaid adviser at the department on a six-month contract in March 2020, before being made a non-executive director.

It was reported in November that Mr Hancock had failed to declare he had appointed Ms Coladangelo before giving her a £15,000-a-year role on the board.

Sky News revealed on Friday that Roberto Coladangelo works at Partnering Health Limited (PHL Group), a specialist in the provision of urgent and primary care services to NHS patients.