Health Secretary Matt Hancock resigns after admitting breaching social distancing guidance
ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports on the resignation of Matt Hancock after it became clear his apology was not enough
Matt Hancock has resigned as Health Secretary after admitting breaching social distancing guidelines by kissing his close aide.
In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson he says the government "owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done by breaching the guidance."
In his letter of resignation, Mr Hancock said: “The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis.
“I want to reiterate my apology for breaking the guidance, and apologise to my family and loved ones for putting them through this. I also need (to) be with my children at this time.”
Former Chancellor and Home Secretary Sajid Javid will replace Mr Hancock as Health Secretary, Downing Street has announced.
In a tweet, Mr Javid said he is "honoured to have been asked to serve as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care at this critical time" and added he looks forward to "serving my country from the Cabinet once again."
Mr Hancock's departure comes after The Sun newspaper printed photographs of the minister and his closest aide Gina Coladangelo in a passionate embrace at the Department of Health offices in London.
Ms Coladangelo is also leaving her role as a non-executive director at the Department of Health, ITV News understands.
The Sun alleges the photos were taken on May 6, before the rule of six applied indoors from May 17 and when social distancing measures were still in place.
In a video posted on Twitter, Matt Hancock said: “I understand the enormous sacrifices that everybody in this country has made, you have made.
"And those of us who make these rules have got to stick by them and that’s why I’ve got to resign.
“I want to thank people for their incredible sacrifices and what they’ve done. Everybody working in the NHS, across social care, everyone involved in the vaccine programme and frankly everybody in this country who has risen to the challenges that we’ve seen over this past 18 months.”
The PM said he was “sorry” to receive Mr Hancock’s resignation as Health Secretary and said he “should leave office very proud of what you have achieved – not just in tackling the pandemic, but even before Covid-19 struck us”.
Mr Johnson added: “I am grateful for your support and believe that your contribution to public service is far from over.”
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said: “It is right that Matt Hancock has resigned. But why didn’t Boris Johnson have the guts to sack him and why did he say the matter was closed?
“Boris Johnson has demonstrated that he has none of the leadership qualities required of a Prime Minister.
“Hancock’s replacement cannot carry on business as usual. On Hancock’s watch waiting times soared, care homes were left exposed to Covid and NHS staff were badly let down. Our NHS deserves much better.”
Who is Gina Coladangelo?
Lobbyist Ms Coladangelo was appointed by Mr Hancock as an unpaid adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on a six-month contract in March last year, sparking uproar due to her various other positions.
The appointment spurred allegations of ‘chumocracy’ as the pair have known each other since their time at Oxford University and remained close friends since.
Ms Coladangelo accompanied Mr Hancock to confidential meetings with civil servants and visited No10 and reportedly has had a parliamentary pass since April under her husband’s surname.
In September 2020, Ms Coladangelo was appointed by Mr Hancock as a non-executive director at DHSC, making her a significant player in the department’s oversight board.
She was a director at lobbying firm Luther Pendragon and is Marketing and Communications director at Oliver Bonas, the fashion and lifestyle store founded by her husband Oliver Tress.
Mr Hancock, who has three children with his wife of 15 years, has faced increased scrutiny over the past months for his handling of the Covid pandemic.
He has been at the centre of a public row with Boris Johnson's former adviser Dominic Cummings, who launched a scathing attack on the health minister for repeatedly "lying" during the health crisis.
Mr Johnson reportedly called the health secretary "hopeless" in message to Mr Cummings.