Matt Hancock resigns as health secretary after admitting breaking COVID rules
Matt Hancock has resigned as health secretary after admitting breaking coronavirus rules, Downing Street says.
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."
It comes after leaked CCTV showed the MP kissing aide and former lobbyist Gina Coladangelo in his departmental office.
The images, published by The Sun, were from 6 May - more than a week before social distancing rules were eased around close contact indoors for people from separate households.
Ms Coladangelo, who has been a close friend of the former cabinet minister since their time at university, was appointed as a non-executive director at the Department of Health and Social Care last year.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats had demanded Mr Hancock's removal, saying the footage raised questions over whether there was a conflict of interest in the appointment of Ms Coladangelo, and whether social distancing rules had been broken.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman had earlier rejected any impropriety, saying "This appointment was made in the usual way and followed correct procedure."
As questions over his future were growing, Mr Hancock pulled out of a planned constituency event and issued a written statement apologising for breaking COVID rules, but indicated he intended to continue in post.
"I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances. I have let people down and am very sorry. I remain focused on working to get the country out of this pandemic, and would be grateful for privacy for my family on this personal matter", he said.
Mr Hancock has been married to his wife Martha for 15 years and they have three children together.
The Sunday Times reported in November that Mr Hancock had failed to declare he had appointed Ms Coladangelo as an unpaid adviser on a six-month contract last March and later gave her a role on the board of the Department of Health.
Ms Coladangelo, who is listed on the department's website as a non-executive director, is the marketing and communications director at British retailer Oliver Bonas, which was founded by her husband Oliver Tress.
Her LinkedIn profile says she has been working as a non-executive director at the Department of Health since September 2020 and was at Oxford University at the same time as the health secretary.
Mr Hancock was appointed health secretary by then prime minister Theresa May in 2018.
During the course of the pandemic he had been critical of those who broke COVID rules, including Professor Neil Ferguson - a senior epidemiologist who sat on the government's advisory panel, SAGE.
Speaking to Sky News in May last year after it was revealed that Professor Ferguson had broken lockdown rules by allowing a woman he was having a relationship with into his home, Mr Hancock said he was "speechless".
Asked if he thought Prof Ferguson should have been prosecuted, the health secretary said: "It's a matter for the police, as a government minister I'm not allowed to get involved in the operational decisions of police matters.
"But I think the social distancing rules are very important and people should follow them."
Recently Matt Hancock has been heavily criticised by Boris Johnson's former chief adviser Dominic Cummings.
In a lengthy evidence session to a joint select committee of MPs investigating the government's handling of the pandemic, Mr Cummings said the former health secretary should have been sacked for "at least 15-20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions".
"I said repeatedly from February and March if we don't fire the secretary of state and if we don't get the testing in someone else's hands we are going to kill people and it's going to be a catastrophe", Mr Cummings said