Security reviews have been launched in Westminster after the leak of compromising footage from Matt Hancock’s former office in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Hancock quit as health secretary after CCTV images were leaked showing him breaching social distancing rules in an embrace with aide Gina Coladangelo.
Ministers have expressed surprise at the presence of CCTV in the office and new Health Secretary Sajid Javid said it had now been disabled.
But questions remain about the security breach which allowed the footage to reach The Sun, and reviews have been launched in both the DHSC and in Parliament.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle told MPs: “I have directed senior officials to consider what implications there are for security arrangements in the House given recent events in Whitehall and take any necessary steps with urgency.”
Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez told MPs that Whitehall security specialists were assisting the DHSC in their investigation into the leak.
“I can confirm that the Department for Health and Social Care has launched an investigation and that is supported – as appropriate – by the Government security group based at the Cabinet Office.
“Until this investigation is complete, it’d be inappropriate to give further details.”
She said the footage of Hancock and Coladangelo was filmed by departmental CCTV rather than a covert camera.
But Javid told reporters the camera had now been disabled by the department.
“For security it’s just common sense,” he said.
“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’m not really sure why there was one here, but I’m sure there will be more to this as the whole incident is investigated.”
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told Times Radio he did not see why there was any need for a camera in a minister’s office.
He said: “I’ve asked the question, and there no cameras in my office, and I wouldn’t have expected there to be, because the issue really for ministers and indeed all staff is safety and security and once you’re through the cordon and the security area, then you can reasonably assume that the building is safe and that authorised people only are there so I don’t see the need for security cameras in government, in that part of the government building.”
Level of concern
The level of concern about the security breach was clear in Parliament, where Sir Lindsay made his announcement before an urgent question on the issue.
Tory MP Peter Bone said: “If Government and parliamentary offices have recording devices in them – whether audio, visual or both – it is of the utmost concern.”
He added: “It is totally unacceptable for private conversations between ministers, civil servants, Members of Parliament and members of the public to be secretly recorded.”
Bone also questioned whether the Wilson Doctrine – the principle dating back to Harold Wilson’s administration banning the surveillance of MPs – had been breached.
Lopez insisted the Government respected the doctrine and there were not believed to be any “covert concerns”.
The SNP’s Marion Fellows asked whether the leak has breached the threshold to warrant an investigation by the intelligence agencies.
Lopez replied: “The investigation is being led by the Department of Health and she raises an important point about the threshold at which it is subject to security intelligence investigations, and I will get back to her on that matter.”
The minister also repeatedly apologised to MPs for not being able to provide more information to their questions in the Commons.