28 Jun Labour calls for investigation into ministers’ use of private emails after Matt Hancock revelations | UK News
A “full-scale” investigation should be launched into ministers using private emails for government business following revelations about former health secretary Matt Hancock, Labour has said.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner is calling for a probe after The Sunday Times reported that both Mr Hancock and Conservative peer Lord Bethell used private email accounts.
The newspaper claimed that Lord Bethell used personal emails to sponsor a parliamentary pass for Mr Hancock’s lover Gina Coladangelo between April and October last year.
It comes after The Sun published pictures of the former health secretary breaching COVID rules by kissing Ms Coladangelo, who worked as his aide, in May.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told Sky News on Sunday that the matter is “something we need to get to the bottom of”, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer agreeing it “breached security”.
The Sun claims it was given the video of Mr Hancock by a whistleblower, but it is unclear how it was captured and disseminated.
Press regulator IPSO states that media organisations “must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices” or “by accessing digitally-held information without consent”.
But it adds that “misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means”.
It defines the public interest as “exposing serious impropriety” or “protecting the public from being misled”.
But the deputy Labour leader claims “the buck doesn’t stop with Hancock”.
She has written to the Information Commissioner and Cabinet Secretary calling for a full investigation into whether ministers have used private emails to negotiate government contracts and whether this constitutes a breach of the Official Secrets Act.
Ms Rayner also raised concerns private email use could lead to further security breaches within government and would prevent ministers’ communications being used at the public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This shady practice has the potential to conceal vital information of public interest and cover up the waste of taxpayers’ money that has been given to friends of Conservative ministers,” she said.
“We need to know how wide this goes and how much government business is being conducted in secret.”
Ms Coladangelo, who like Mr Hancock is married, was listed as working as his aide during his failed Conservative leadership campaign in 2019.
It is not clear why she had parliamentary access after that – including when the footage of her and Mr Hancock is thought to have been captured in May of this year.
Lord Bethell, who is a friend of Mr Hancock’s, is allowed to sponsor up to three people for research or secretarial purposes as a member of the House of Lords.