Labour has repeated its point that the PM should have sacked Hancock immediately after video footage emerged of him kissing an aide in his ministerial office in a breach of coronavirus restrictions.
The prime minister has a “very dangerous blind spot” over issues of integrity and conduct in government ministers’ public life, shadow housing secretary Lucy Powell said in an interview for the Labour party with Trevor Phillips on Sky News.
“I’m afraid it feels to me like the prime minister has a very dangerous blind spot when it comes to issues of integrity and conduct in public life. And that’s a really big problem,” Powell said.
“It’s an even bigger problem when you’re in the middle of a pandemic and you’re asking the public to also have integrity and conduct in the way that they go about with their own lives,” she added.
Powell’s comments came the morning after Matt Hancock resigned from government, after the health secretary faced mounting pressure to quit over his breaking of social distancing rules in footage from last month.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had backed the health secretary to stay in his role, despite him being accused of having an affair with his closest aide in the CCTV footage that emerged of Hancock kissing Gina Coladangelo.
The PM’s spokesperson said on Friday afternoon that Johnson considered “the matter closed” after Hancock apologised for “letting people down”, despite calls from Labour and the Liberal Democrats for him to resign.
Asked whether Matt Hancock resigned because he thought he had done something terribly wrong, or just because of the reaction to it, Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis told Andrew Marr on BBC News that Hancock resigned because he thought it was the right thing to do, and he’d thought he’d “become a distraction” from the vaccine rollout.
Former Chancellor and Home Secretary Sajid Javid will now replace Matt Hancock as Health Secretary, Downing Street has announced.
On Sunday morning, the Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis told Sky that the Department for Health and Social Care is investigating how Matt Hancock was filmed in his private office.
Security chiefs reportedly believe that Hancock was filmed with a CCTV camera hidden inside a smoke detector, and that the video was leaked by a whistleblower from his staff.
Powell also confirmed this morning that Labour MP Fleur Anderson has written to the police asking if Hancock committed an offence when he breached social distancing.
Cabinet ministers are usually offered a “severance payment” when they leave the government, which according to The Sun can be worth around £16,000. Powell this morning said it would be “pretty disgusting” if Hancock were to receive this payment in the circumstances of his resignation.