The government will investigate how the images of Matt Hancock kissing an assistant in his office that sparked his downfall have ended up in the public domain, a cabinet minister said.
Brandon Lewis, the secretary for Northern Ireland, said the Department of Health and Welfare (DHSC) would undertake an internal investigation into the leaked CCTV footage to the Sun. Several media have indicated that a DHSC employee was the culprit.
The tabloid’s publication of images recorded on May 6 by CCTV in Hancock’s office showing him kissing Gina Coladangelo led to the resignation of the Health Secretary on Saturday and his replacement by Sajid Javid, the former Home Secretary and chancellor.
Lewis’s remarks came amid claims that the leak manager had enlisted the help of an anti-lockdown activist to place the footage in media in order to undermine Hancock. As Health Secretary, Hancock was one of the top ministers arguing last fall that a second lockdown was needed to reduce Covid infections and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed.
Speaking to Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday, Lewis said: “I saw some of the reports this morning describing how different reporters think the tape could have been broadcast. It’s definitely a question that I know the Department of Health will be looking at to understand exactly how it got recorded, how it got out of the system. This is something we have to get to the bottom of. “
The security and privacy of government affairs means ministers must understand how someone was able to access and save the footage and then share it with a newspaper, he said.
“What is happening in ministries can be sensitive, important and people need to be confident that what is happening in a ministry is something that allows the government to focus on these fundamental issues, and the sensitivity sometimes in the sense of the security of these fundamental issues.
“I know this is something that the Department of Health will bring forward as an internal investigation and we have to see and leave the space for them to do it, to understand how it happened and to ensure that that kind of thing cannot happen. again or through the government for that matter.
The status and nature of the Health Ministry’s investigation is unknown, as its findings will be made public. The Guardian reported on Friday that Downing Street had ruled out an investigation into the full-scale leaks, despite the security implications of releasing the footage, fearing that, if identified, the leaker could pose as a whistleblower who exposed wrongdoing and claim the legal protections whistleblowers are supposed to have. Sources say this remains the case.
The Mail on Sunday reported that the leaker sent messages via Instagram to the unnamed anti-lockout activist. One said: “I have some very damning CCTV footage of someone who was recently classified as completely desperate. If you want more information, please contact me.
This was reportedly sent on June 17, the day after Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings posted the text messages he had with the PM last year, in which Johnson described Hancock from “totally desperate”.
A second message, sent on June 19, said: “I really have to be careful about this, but it puts him in a very compromising position with some. [sic] who is not his wife last month.
And another message, sent later today, added, “I have the full video… it has now been deleted from the system because it is over 30 days long. “
The Guardian has asked DHSC for further details on its investigation and the Mail on Sunday’s claims.