A security review has been launched into the events surrounding the resignation of Matt Hancock as health secretary, after images of him kissing an adviser in his London office were passed to a tabloid newspaper.
Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis confirmed on Sunday the health department was conducting a review, while allies of Hancock confirmed he was unaware that his Whitehall office was under surveillance.
Hancock quit on Saturday after admitting he had breached the government’s social distancing guidelines by kissing his adviser Gina Coladangelo in his Whitehall office in May.
Pictures and video of Hancock’s embrace with Coladangelo were published by The Sun newspaper.
“We have got to be concerned about the fact that someone was able to secure a recording from inside a government building,” Lewis told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme.
Lewis declined to say whether the police and security services were involved in the security review.
Boris Johnson on Saturday appointed Sajid Javid, former chancellor, as his new health secretary.
Javid has long been an advocate of lifting Covid-19 restrictions at the earliest opportunity.
“We are still in a pandemic and I want to see that come to an end as soon as possible,” he said on Sunday. “I want to see that we can return to normal as soon and as quickly as possible.”
Javid’s first task, along with senior cabinet members, is to decide on Monday whether to lift remaining coronavirus restrictions in England on July 5, as part of a review promised by the prime minister.
However Johnson has said July 19 is the “terminus point” for the restrictions, and a rise in cases of the Delta variant of coronavirus makes it unlikely they could be lifted on July 5, according to government officials.
While Javid comes to terms with his daunting in-tray, including clearing a huge backlog of NHS treatment accumulated during the Covid-19 pandemic, controversy surrounds Hancock’s resignation.
The Sun said the images of Hancock kissing Coladangelo came from “a concerned Whitehall whistleblower”, but former ministers were amazed that his office was fitted with a camera.
Alan Johnson, a former Labour home secretary, told Sky’s Phillips on Sunday: “There was never a camera in my office when I was health secretary or in any of the other five cabinet positions.”
Jeremy Hunt, former health secretary, said: “It’s completely unacceptable from a security point of view that ministers are being filmed inside their own offices without their knowledge.”
He added it was vital that ministers could have “frank, private conversations” with officials.
Labour chair Anneliese Dodds said Johnson should have sacked Hancock on Friday when The Sun published its story, rather than wait 24 hours for his minister to resign.
“If Boris Johnson had any backbone, he would have removed him,” she added.