Heath Secretary Sajid Javid made a joke at predecessor Matt Hancock’s expense after he was forced to resign for kissing an aide.
Mr Javid addressed the Local Government Association’s virtual conference on Thursday afternoon from Mr Hancock’s old office in Westminster.
At the start, he asked councillors dialling in from across the UK: “I hope my camera is on, is my camera on?
“I mean, the one on my laptop, not the one in the ceiling.”
Mr Hancock’s embrace with Gina Coladangelo was caught on leaked CCTV and ultimately cost him his government job after he admitted they had breached social-distancing rules.
The presence of a camera in a ministerial office was met with concern in Whitehall and Mr Javid has previously said it was switched off when he took over.
Former home secretary and chancellor Mr Javid, seated in front of Mr Hancock’s Damien Hirst portrait of the Queen, said the in tray he inherited was the biggest of any of the five departments he’d previously led.
He told the LGA: “The last 18 months have been some of the most difficult in our country’s history.
“I’ll freely admit that I haven’t found it easy to watch from the sidelines.”
Mr Javid defended the government’s plans for ending most of England’s restrictions on July 19, warning that delaying would risk adding to winter pressures on the NHS.
He said he was pleased Boris Johnson “had brought him back from furlough” to continue public service.
Mr Javid said the new Health and Care Bill would bring real changes to social care putting it on a “sustainable footing for the future”.
“We need a new approach,” he said. “I want to assure you that I will continue to be your voice.
“We all want to see high quality personal care. We all want to see fairer ways of paying for that care. We all want people to have the choice of housing that works for them.
“We also want carers to be better recognised for the work they do.
“I am also determined that we approach social care with the same spirit of integration and innovation we’ve seen throughout this pandemic.”
He added of his workload reforming health, fixing the care system and ending the Covid-19 crisis: “It’s a big in tray, the biggest I’ve seen of any department that I’ve ever led and I’ve led five.
“My immediate priority is to help get us out safely out of this pandemic. But I’m mindful that I’m not simply the Covid Secretary.
“I’m going to be looking at everything under the sun that’s going to improve the health of our country.
“I have every confidence we can rise and meet those challenges together.”