Sunday, October 17

Hancock Affair: PM has “serious questions” to answer, says Labor | Matt hancock


Boris Johnson still has “big questions to answer” following the resignation of Matt Hancock over his affair with a friend and paid adviser, Labor said, as the government was urged to launch an investigation into a “possible abuse of public money.”

Downing Street was struggling to contain the scandal, which erupted last week after CCTV footage emerged of the married health secretary and Gina Coladangelo kissing in her Whitehall office just weeks earlier.

The pressure continues to mount as Conservative MPs are among those demanding assurances that there were no wrongdoing in Coladangelo’s appointment to a position that pays up to £ 15,000 a year as a non-executive director in the Department of Health and Social Care ( DHSC). He started in September 2020 and left his position for the weekend.

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labor leader, said the new health secretary, Sajid Javid, and Johnson himself have “serious questions to answer.”

He said the government should clarify how the Covid contracts were awarded, why Coladangelo received a parliamentary pass from another health minister, and how the CCTV footage that led to Hancock’s downfall was leaked.

“If anyone thinks that the resignation of Matt Hancock is the end of the problem, I think they are wrong … the resignation is far from the end of the matter,” he said.

Caroline Slocock, who founded the think tank Civil Exchange and was Margaret Thatcher’s private secretary, told The Guardian that she had “pretty significant concerns” that the focus on Hancock’s breach of Covid rules had “freed” him. of “a possible abuse of public money”.

She stated that there had been a “series of murky events” and that since Coladangelo served as the communications director, “it is quite difficult to see” how qualified she was to advise DHSC in its core areas of health and social care policy.

Slocock said Hancock had “at best, essentially appointed an old friend,” adding, “It is not acceptable for your lover to mark your homework.”

A Conservative MP and former minister also said there were “more questions” that needed answers, including that Hancock relied heavily on a personal email account for government business, getting Coladangelo to the G7, and the “apparent favor” of family and friends for Covid Contracts. “It’s very serious,” they said. “None of this has been clarified.”

Another said answers to lingering questions “will likely influence” whether Hancock ever returns to the front seat, while a third admitted that the former health secretary had “few supporters” in his own party.

Labor has also written to the cabinet secretary and information commissioner about claims about Hancock’s use of personal email.

Angela Rayner, the deputy leader of the party, said that “the ball is not stopping with Hancock and this matter is not closed.”

He added: “This government is rotten to the core. We need to know how wide this is going and how much government business is being conducted in secret. “

Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, challenged Javid to “abolish conservative cronyism” at DHSC, beginning by ruling that fellow conservative Dido Harding will not be the next CEO of NHS England.

“The public expects much better from the government during a pandemic,” he added.

Javid will be put to the test when he addresses the Commons with a statement Monday afternoon, which is expected to confirm that the final stage of relief from England’s lockdown will not continue on July 5, the mid-way checkpoint. promised by the government when it announced the expected four-week delay. to end on July 19.

It will be the former chancellor’s first appearance in the dispatch box since he consecutively resigned with Johnson and Dominic Cummings in February 2020.

Conservative MPs loyal to Hancock joined him in attacking the CCTV facility in his Whitehall office, which captured images, leaked to the Sun newspaper last week, of him and Coladangelo kissing while stricter social distancing rules still existed.

One said the video monitoring was “absolutely unacceptable,” while a second said malicious people had broken into the health secretary’s office and were snooping on it.

Brandon Lewis, the secretary for Northern Ireland, said it’s “something we need to get to the bottom of” because a lot of what happens in government departments is “sensitive and important.”

But another senior conservative said the dispute over the cameras, which has prompted an internal Whitehall investigation, was a “distraction” from the “outright car accident” of Hancock’s career.

The scandal has also sparked new speculation about a cabinet shakeup. Johnson avoided a massive change to his senior team by appointing Javid and not moving any other minister.

But some experts think that since Hancock is likely to be demoted anyway, his departure has increased the chances of a shakeup just before Parliament’s summer recess begins on July 22.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, is one of those said to be most at risk, and several Conservative MPs want Hancock’s ally, Health Minister Lord Bethell, to move forward as well.

“We need a shakeup and we need it soon,” said a senior conservative. “Most ministers look a little beyond what they are doing and expect it, they don’t have their full focus on the jobs.”

A DHSC spokesperson said all ministers “only conduct government business through their departmental email addresses.”

The government has also insisted that the appointment of Coladangelo followed the correct procedure and that the secretaries of state have the right to make direct appointments.


www.theguardian.com

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