Matt Hancock facing investigation over use of personal email to conduct government business
- Hancock is believed to have routinely used a private Gmail account for work
- Ministers should use official email accounts in the interest of transparency
- The former Health Secretary’s use of a Gmail account for government business was addressed in minutes of a meeting, seen by The Sunday Times
- Matt Hancock, 42, announced his resignation on Saturday following the emergence of video footage showing him kissing aide Gina Coladangelo
Matt Hancock is facing an investigation over his use of a personal email account to conduct government business, according to reports.
By not using an official address during the pandemic, the newly resigned Health Secretary would have been in breach of government guidelines.
Mr Hancock has routinely used a private email account to conduct government business since March last year, according to documents seen by The Sunday Times.
Matt Hancock (pictured) is facing an investigation over his use of a personal email account to conduct government business, according to reports
As a result, his communications and information has been concealed from his own officials and potentially the public, and means that the government does not hold records of much of the former health minister’s decision making.
This reportedly includes negotiating PPE contracts worth millions, establishing the £37 billion test and trace programme, and overseeing the government’s care homes strategy – all of which he faced criticism for during his time in office.
According to The Sunday Times, the existence of the secret account was disclosed in minutes of a December meeting between senior officials at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Cabinet Office guidelines stipulate that ministers should use official email accounts, in the interest of transparency, and in order to ensure there is evidence of important decisions and of proper internal scrutiny from officials and staff.
Matt Hancock, 42, announced his resignation on Saturday following the emergence of video footage showing him kissing aide Gina Coladangelo in his ministerial office in a breach of coronavirus restrictions.
He has also been accused of conflicts of interest over the hiring of Coladangelo as his media adviser and director of his department, earning £15,000 a year.
Matt Hancock, 42, announced his resignation on Saturday following the emergence of video footage showing him kissing aide Gina Coladangelo in his ministerial office in a breach of coronavirus restrictions
According to the leaked documents, its possible that he hid details of their official dealings, and his conduct in office as a whole.
According to the newspaper, the minutes show that David Williams – the department’s second permanent secretary – warned of Hancock’s emails, saying that he ‘only’ deals with his private office ‘via Gmail account’.
He also stated that ‘the SOS [secretary of state] does not have a DHSC inbox’, and that officials could not freely access key evidence or documents because the ‘threshold for requesting this personal account would need to be substantial.’
Williams also said that Hancock’s ally and a junior health minister Lord Bethell used the same practice.
Mr Hancock has also been accused of conflicts of interest over the hiring of Coladangelo (pictured togehter) as his media adviser and director of his department, earning £15,000 a year
The subject of the minutes was a meeting about a legal challenge made by the Good Law Project over Hancock’s decision to award a contract worth as much as £75 million for ‘malfunctioning’ tests to a firm connected to government adviser Sir John Bell.
Williams admits in the minutes that he ‘doesn’t believe there was inappropriate acts on behalf of ministers but can clearly see the optics suggest otherwise,’ The Sunday Times reports.
Since the meeting, Hancock was given an official email account, although according to two sources cited by the newspaper, he still preferred to use Gmail – considered a form of communication that is more difficult to trace.
Labour have demanded an investigation by the Information Commissioners Office into whether Hancock breached the rules.
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner said: ‘He needs to explain to the British people why he thought it was acceptable to have a secret and private email inbox for contracts for people that he had a direct relationship with.’
The disgraced health secretary is already facing potential investigations into whether he broke laws and guidance that he helped create, and the ministerial code, in relation to his clinch with Ms Coladangelo.
A DHSC spokesman told The Sunday Times: ‘All DHSC ministers understand the rules around personal email usage and only conduct government business through their departmental email addresses.’