Matt Hancock looks at aide Gina Coladangelo’s phone – he has been accused of using a private e-mail account (Image: AFP via Getty Images)
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Matt Hancock faces calls for an investigation into claims he used a private e-mail account while in government.
The Health Secretary – who resigned in disgrace last night after snogging an aide in his office – was accused in leaked minutes of “only” dealing with his private office “via Gmail account”.
The notes from a meeting from December 2020, obtained by the Sunday Times, even claimed Mr Hancock “does not have a DHSC [Department of Health and Social Care] inbox”.
That would appear to break Cabinet Office guidance, which says: “It is expected that Government business should be recorded on government record systems.”
Critics believe private e-mail accounts can be used to get round freedom of information rules – making it more difficult for vital information to reach the public.
Mr Hancock’s pal Lord Bethell, who donated £5,000 to his leadership bid in 2019 and was then made a health minister nine months later, also “routinely uses his personal inbox”, the minutes claimed.
Mr Hancock’s pal Lord Bethell, who donated £5,000 to his leadership bid in 2019 and was then made a health minister
“The majority of [approvals for contracts] would have been initiated from this inbox,” the leaked minutes added.
It’s believed both ministers have had a departmental e-mail address since the date they took their jobs.
But the DHSC failed to guarantee the two men had never used their personal e-mails for government business.
Instead, a spokeswoman gave the Mirror a generalised statement saying: “All DHSC ministers understand the rules around personal email usage and only conduct government business through their departmental email addresses.”
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said today: “This is very serious and could have broken the law.
“Private email accounts could be used to discuss sensitive information and discuss contracts, avoiding Freedom of Information and concealing information from the public inquiry.
“I will be pursuing this.”
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It comes nine years after Michael Gove – and this then-aide Dominic Cummings – lost a legal bid to stop Mr Gove’s private account being exposed to freedom of information rules.
The Information Commissioner ruled the government had breached the Freedom of Information Act.
And the Cabinet Office issued guidance a year later, saying ministers could use private e-mail addresses but should “take steps” to make any government business accessible – such as by copying it to an official address.
Public authorities can ask for information from ministers’ private e-mail accounts as part of a freedom of information request, but this is extremely rare.
It is also only done by “approaching the individual in question” and asking them to share their information.
Separately, Mr Hancock today faced scrutiny over his claim to have had nothing to do with a Covid contract given to his former local pub landlord.
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Emails revealed by the Mail on Sunday show the Health Secretary personally referred a plea from pal Alex Bourne – who used to run the Cock Inn in his constituency – to senior officials on March 30.
His firm later won a multi-million pound deal to supply test tubes to the NHS, and in August Mr Bourne accepted an invitation to a Zoom meeting with Boris Johnson and other suppliers, the newspaper reported.
An e-mail from Mr Bourne on June 15 also thanked Mr Hancock for “your time the other day”, it’s claimed.
It comes despite Mr Hancock insisting last year: “I had absolutely nothing to do with that contract”.
Last night Mr Bourne told the Mail on Sunday there had been no impropriety in securing his Covid contract, adding: “I don't know him [Mr Hancock] well… This idea that I am chummy with him is not true.”