Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been accused of having an affair with an adviser to his department.
The Sun published pictures of the married Cabinet minister appearing to kiss Gina Coladangelo, who the newspaper said was hired by Mr Hancock last year.
The images, which appear to be captured from CCTV footage, were taken on May 6 from the headquarters of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the newspaper adds.
It said the minister hired Ms Coladangelo as an unpaid adviser on a six-month contract in March last year, before appointing her as a non-executive director at the department.
Mr Hancock, who is said to have met Ms Coladangelo at university, has been married to his wife Martha for 15 years and they have three children together.
Ms Coladangelo is the marketing and communications director at Oliver Bonas, a British retailer founded by her husband Oliver Tress.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Friday morning that he would not be commenting on the “entirely personal” matter following the reports about his Cabinet colleague.
When asked if the Health Secretary had been ignoring social distancing rules when the images were taken, Mr Shapps told LBC he is “quite sure that whatever the rules were at the time were followed”.
However, the Government’s road map out of lockdown said people should continue to keep their distance from anyone not in their household or support bubble until May 17.
Asked about the rules around appointing friends to Government positions, Mr Shapps told Sky News: “First of all, I think the actual issue is entirely personal for Matt Hancock.
“In terms of rules, anyone who has been appointed has to go through an incredibly rigorous process in Government, so whatever the rules are, the rules will have to be followed.
“There are no short cuts to that, as anyone who has had anything to do with the appointments system in the Civil Service knows.
“There are very strict rules in place.”
Labour said the Government needs to answer whether the Health Secretary had broken any rules or there had been “conflicts of interest” in the appointment of his closest adviser.
An Opposition party spokesman said: “Ministers, like everyone, are entitled to a private life.
“However, when taxpayers’ money is involved or jobs are being offered to close friends who are in a personal relationship with a minister, then that needs to be looked into.
“The Government needs to be open and transparent about whether there are any conflicts of interests or rules that have been broken.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said on Twitter: “The reason Matt Hancock should resign is that he is a terrible Health Secretary, not because of his private life.
“From the PPE scandal, the crisis in our care service and the unbelievably poor test and trace system, he has utterly failed.”
In May of last year, Mr Hancock said he was “speechless” after it emerged that Professor Neil Ferguson had allowed a woman, reported to be his lover, to visit him at home in London on at least two occasions during lockdown.
The reason Matt Hancock should resign is that he is a terrible Health Secretary, not because of his private life. From the PPE scandal, the crisis in our care service and the unbelievably poor test and trace system, he has utterly failed.
— Ed Davey MP 🔶🇪🇺 (@EdwardJDavey) June 25, 2021
The Government adviser, whose work was crucial in Boris Johnson’s move to enforce strict restrictions, stood down from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) over what he called an “error of judgment”.
Asked about police involvement in the matter, Mr Hancock told Sky News at the time: “They will take their decisions independently from ministers, that’s quite right, it’s always been like that.
“Even though I have got a clear answer to what I think, as a minister the way we run the police is that they make decisions like this.
“So I give them their space to make that decision, but I think he took the right decision to resign.”
Mr Hancock was not at his north London home on Friday morning, while the PA news agency has contacted the DHSC for comment.