BORIS Johnson has “accepted” Matt Hancock’s apology after he admitted breaking social distancing rules when he was caught in a romantic embrace with a lover.
Downing Street advisers told Westminster journalists today that Mr Johnson had accepted the health secretary’s apology and now “considers the matter closed”.
He said Mr Johnson has full confidence in Mr Hancock despite his admittance that he broke social distancing rules by engaging in a tryst with his senior aide Gina Coladangelo, who was enlisted as an unpaid adviser in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) six months ago.
She is also set to be paid £15,000 of taxpayers’ cash as a non-executive director at DHSC, a role which she took up earlier this year.
Mr Johnson’s spokesman would not be drawn on whether Mr Hancock offered his resignation, or if he was asked to resign following the scandal being reported this morning. When asked, he said: “ I’m not going to be getting into details of private conversations.”
He would also not comment on whether Mr Johnson believed Mr Hancock broke the law, deflecting all questions back to Mr Hancock’s statement issued this afternoon.
The No.10 spokesman said: “You’ve seen the Health Secretary’s statement, so I would point you to that. I don’t really have anything further to add.
“The Health Secretary set out that he accepted that he breached the social distancing guidelines, and he has apologised for that, and the Prime Minister has accepted the health secretary’s apology and considers the matter closed.”
While Mr Hancock’s personal romances may be a private matter, the issue has seen calls for an investigation due to the fact Ms Coladangelo was employed using public money.
Asked if Lord Geidt, the UK government’s adviser on ministerial standards, has been consulted about the affair and whether it needs to be investigated, the spokesman did not respond directly but repeated that the PM had accepted Mr Hancock’s apology.
Asked how Ms Coladangelo ended up being appointed as a non-executive director at DHSC, the spokesman said the appointment “follows all the correct procedures” but would not say whether Mr Hancock and Ms Coladangelo were in a relationship prior to her appointment.
Images leaked to The Sun newspaper showing Mr Hancock and Ms Coladangelo kissing in his Whitehall HQ are being probed by DHSC, as it is considered a potential security breach.
The Henry Jackson society think tank has called for MI5 to probe the leak, saying it is a breach of national security.
Alan Mendoza, the executive director of the think tank, said: “For reasons of national security, it should be impossible for a bug to be placed anywhere near such a facility.
“The Government must urgently explain how such a glaring security-breach occurred & MI5 must immediately probe the circumstances.
“All other Ministerial offices will now need sweeping to see what other listening & recording devices are snooping on Ministers.
“Steps should also be taken to determine if this incident was conducted by a disgruntled civil servant or – given its sophistication & seriousness – agents of a hostile state.”