A health minister and close ally of Matt Hancock is being investigated by a parliamentary watchdog over claims he sponsored a pass for Gina Coladangelo in an alleged breach of the rules.
Lord Bethell, a Tory peer, signed off a parliamentary pass for Mr Hancock’s lover from April 2020, despite rules that say peers should only sponsor passes of staff who work for them directly.
Ms Coladangelo was an aide to Mr Hancock from April 2020 and later a non-executive director of the Department of Health.
Her role in Whitehall has come under scrutiny since a video emerged of her kissing Mr Hancock in his departmental office, ultimately resulting in the pair’s resignations.
Lord Bethell has written to the watchdog to say Ms Coladangelo provided him with “unpaid parliamentary research support” and he contacted parliamentary authorities for advice before sponsoring her pass.
He said he cancelled it in December after rules surrounding passes for staff were changed.
Matt Hancock is caught on camera kissing his Whitehall aide, Gina Coladangelo
It came as Elizabeth Denham, the head of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), on Tusday confirmed the watchdog was launching a formal investigation into the use of "private correspondence channels" in the Department for Health.
Both Mr Hancock and Lord Bethell have been accused of breaching government guidelines by using personal emails to discuss official business.
In a blog post, Ms Denham said: “That investigation will establish if private correspondence channels have been used, and if their use led to breaches of freedom of information or data protection law. We will publish the results of that investigation in due course.”
She also pointed out that the ICO had the power to bring criminal prosecutions against individuals where information was deliberately destroyed, altered or concealed after it had been requested.
House of Lords rules state that peers can sponsor three passes for those who "genuinely and personally provide parliamentary secretarial or research assistance" to them.
At the time she was granted access to Parliament, Ms Coladangelo was working in communications for Oliver Bonas, the fashion label founded by her husband, Oliver Tress.
Sources close to Mr Hancock said their affair did not begin until over a year later, in May 2021.
It is understood that the former health secretary has now left his wife, Martha, to continue a "serious" relationship with Ms Coladangelo.
The Lords Commissioner for Standards confirmed on Tuesday that it was investigating “a complaint regarding Lord Bethell’s sponsoring of a pass for Gina Coladangelo”.
If the complaint is upheld, Lord Bethell could be reprimanded publicly or be suspended from the House of Lords.
The referral was made by Anneliese Dodds, chairman of the Labour Party.
She said at the time: “The Conservatives have serious questions to answer about how Gina Coladangelo gained the right to enter Parliament unchecked.
"We need to know why she was sponsored by one of Matt Hancock’s chums in the Lords and what work she did for him.”