The CCTV device that caught Matt Hancock in a clinch with his female aide has been disabled, amid concerns over cameras in ministers’ offices.
A Cabinet Minister confirmed on Sunday that a leak inquiry has now been launched into how footage captured inside the former health secretary’s private office was handed to The Sun, which then published it.
Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, said: “That is certainly a matter I know the Department of Health will be looking into to understand exactly how that was recorded, how it got out of the system. It’s something we need to get to the bottom of.” It is understood that the police have not been called in so far, however.
Reports over the weekend claimed that a “whistleblower” in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) was behind the sting that led to Mr Hancock’s resignation.
The mole contacted opponents of Mr Hancock’s support for lockdown seeking help to expose the minister’s affair in the press, according to the Mail on Sunday.
An Instagram account and an encrypted ProtonMail email address were used to communicate by the insider, who sought a fee for the footage, it was claimed.
It remains unclear whether the footage was copied directly from the system, or was filmed on a mobile phone as it was played back on a screen. Private firms are usually contracted to provide security for Government buildings.
Matt Hancock was caught in a clinch with his female aide Gina Colangelo
On Sunday it emerged that the camera in the corner of Mr Hancock’s old office, which he is said to have been unaware existed, would no longer be used.
As well as the camera being switched off, it has reportedly been taped over with black masking tape.
A Government source told The Telegraph: “The Department for Health and Social Care has disabled the camera. The investigation into the security issues arising is ongoing and is being taken seriously.”
Mr Lewis told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme that “what happens in Government departments can be sensitive, important” and added that “people need to have confidence” in the security of such discussions and documents.
He added later on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “The Department of Health will be investigating this, quite rightly, to understand how this was able to happen.
“Putting aside what’s on the pictures, the fact that it was leaked at all is something they do need to investigate.”
He suggested that a wider cross-Whitehall review of security cameras and listening equipment may be needed.
“We’ve got to be concerned about the fact that somebody was able to secure a recording from inside a government building,” he said.
“We’ve got to do the work to understand how that happened and to be able to assess how we deal with that going forward, absolutely.”
Asked whether the Official Secrets Act had been breached, Mr Lewis said he did not know the full details.
Former Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt also heaped pressure on Downing Street to commission a cross-Whitehall probe.
Quizzed on whether such a review was needed to prevent eavesdropping on ministers, he said: “Absolutely. I mean, it’s completely unacceptable from a security point of view that ministers are being filmed inside their own offices without their knowledge.
“So there’ll be issues that our intelligence agencies will want to look at very, very carefully.”
He added that it was imperative that frontbenchers “have the ability to have frank private conversations with their senior officials to debate things so that we can understand issues and know that those conversations will remain private if they’re going to be able to go through the thought processes that enable them to make the right decisions”.
Mr Hunt predicted the matter would be at the forefront of ministers’ minds in the aftermath of the debacle engulfing Mr Hancock.