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Matt Hancock today apologised for breaking social distancing rules after pictures showed him kissing a close aide in the Department of Health offices.
The married Health Secretary admitted he broke social distancing "guidance" – though did not say whether he believes he broke the law – in his embrace with Gina Coladangelo.
He said: "I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances.
"I have let people down and am very sorry."
But Mr Hancock confirmed he has no intention of resigning. He added: "I remain focused on working to get the country out of this pandemic, and would be grateful for privacy for my family on this personal matter.”
It came after Labour demanded he is sacked as Health Secretary over a "charge sheet" that culminated in the incident.
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Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said: "If Matt Hancock has been secretly having a relationship with an adviser in his office… it is a blatant abuse of power and a clear conflict of interest.
"The charge sheet against Matt Hancock includes wasting taxpayers’ money, leaving care homes exposed and now being accused of breaking his own COVID rules.
"His position is hopelessly untenable. Boris Johnson should sack him."
CCTV images emerged today in the Sun newspaper of Mr Hancock with Gina Coladangelo.
Mrs Coladangelo is a university friend of Mr Hancock, and was handed a £15,000-a-year role last year as a non-executive director at the Department of Health.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock with adviser Gina Coladangelo
On May 6, when the images are said to have been taken, England's law banned indoor social gatherings of people from different households – while guidance urged people to stay two metres apart and avoid "face to face contact".
Before May 17, indoor gatherings between people from different households or bubbles were against the law – unless they fell under an exemption such as being “reasonably necessary” for work.
A person would “commit an offence” if they broke this restriction without an exemption, and could be fined £200 on the spot.
Mr Hancock's team have not said whether or not an exemption applied in this case. The Covid regulations were signed into law by Mr Hancock himself.
A friend of the Health Secretary earlier declined to confirm or deny claims of an affair, saying: “He has no comment on personal matters. No rules have been broken.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock leaves 10 Downing Street with aide Gina Coladangelo
(Image: Getty Images)
On Mrs Coladangelo’s job, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesman added: “This appointment was made in the usual way and followed correct procedure.”
But Labour said the government must make clear whether there were “any conflicts of interests or rules that have been broken.”
And the Lib Dems called for "hypocrite" Matt Hancock to quit or be sacked.
The party's health spokeswoman Munira Wilson said: "Matt Hancock is a terrible Health Secretary and should have been sacked a long time ago for his failures.
"This latest episode of hypocrisy will break the trust with the British public. He was telling families not to hug loved ones, while doing whatever he liked in the workplace."
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She added: "From the PPE scandal, the crisis in our care service and the unbelievably poor test and trace system, he has utterly failed. It is time for the Health Secretary to go."
The Health Secretary, who is married and has three children, was spotted snogging mum-of-three Gina Coladangelo, whose husband founded the fashion firm Oliver Bonas, in his office at the Department of Health's London HQ.
The images were reportedly taken on May 6 – when England's Covid lockdown banned indoor social gatherings of people from different households, and guidance urged people to stay two metres apart and avoid "face to face contact".
Mr Hancock, 42, controversially hired 43-year-old Mrs Coladangelo – who he first met at Oxford University in the early 2000s – in March last year.
Mr Hancock has not yet responded to claims he has been cheating on his wife of 15 years, Martha, as the UK continues to fight the Covid pandemic.
Mrs Hancock was pictured wearing her wedding ring as she left their home after the claims emerged on Friday morning. Mr Hancock was not at his north London home on Friday morning, as he was due to attend an event in Newmarket, Suffolk.
However, he cancelled the appearance.
In May of last year, Mr Hancock said he was “speechless” and would back police action after it emerged SAGE member Prof Neil Ferguson had allowed a woman, reported to be his lover, to visit him at home in London during lockdown.
Mr Hancock also repeatedly urged Brits to follow lockdown rules, saying "we should all be careful, we all know the risks" and proclaiming: "These rules are there for everyone."