BORIS Johnson must get a grip of his government and tackle a myriad of unresolved issues, according to opposition politicians.
Ian Murray, Secretary of State for Scotland and the MP for Edinburgh South, said the Matt Hancock saga is “just the tip of the iceberg”, following revelations that he used his private Gmail account to conduct government business.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland acknowledged this morning that ministers’ use of private emails could be a risk to national security.
Speaking on the radio this morning Mr Murray said: “There are huge problems in this Government in terms of its secrecy and in terms of the way operates – it doesn’t abide by any of the rules that normal Governments would abide by and that has to be investigated at the very highest levels.”
“The affair is just the tip of the iceberg.
“In terms of breaking the Covid rules with social distance, it is only a part of the story here.”
He added: “The huge part of the story is all the issues that remain unresolved with regards to cronyism and contracts for many hundreds of millions of pounds going to companies associated with Matthew Hancock, whether it was an ex-neighbour or a friend.”
The issue of ministers using private emails for official business – in breach of Government rules – resurfaced after revelations by The Sunday Times.
It was reported that leaked documents show the former health secretary may have hidden details of their official dealings and his wider conduct in office.
In the minutes of a meeting between senior officials at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) last December, the department’s second permanent secretary, David Williams, said Mr Hancock “only” deals with his private office “via Gmail account”.
However, the Department for Health has claimed all ministers “only conduct Government business through their departmental email addresses”.
The SNP has also demanded the Prime Minister open an inquiry into to Hancock affair, why his aide Gina Coladangelo was appointed as an adviser and non-executive director at the Department of Health and Social care, and explain why the Cabinet Office conducted research on attitudes towards the union using emergency coronavirus legislation, and £560,000 of taxpayers’ money as revealed by The Herald.
The Government is also facing pressure after confidential and sensitive documents from the Ministry of Defence were found behind a bus shelter in Kent.
Kirsten Oswald MP, the SNP’s depute leader in Westminster, said an independent inquiry was needed to “shine a light on Tory cronyism”.
She said: “There are growing concerns that Matt Hancock routinely abused his position as Tory Health Secretary – and may have broken the ministerial code and the law on multiple occasions.
“It’s essential that Boris Johnson orders an independent investigation to shine a light on Tory cronyism – or trust in the UK government will be eroded even further.
“The investigation must assess Mr Hancock’s use of private email to conduct government business, his involvement in covid contracts that benefitted Tory friends and family, the appointment of Gina Coladangelo, and the repeated failure to declare relevant interests, including his relationship.
“The Prime Minister cannot be allowed to sweep the Tory cronyism scandal under the carpet. Taxpayers have a right to know why so many Tory friends and donors have been handed lucrative jobs, privileged access, peerages, and millions – if not billions – of pounds of public contracts at our expense.”
She added that “questions over the Prime Minister’s judgement will only grow” if an inquiry isn’t ordered, adding: “Whether it’s soliciting dodgy donations to refurbish the Downing Street flat, handing peerages to billionaire Tory donors, offering tax breaks by text, or unlawfully handing covid contracts to Tory associates, there is a growing stench of corruption and sleaze about this Tory government.”