SNP: PM risks jeopardising public health measures by clinging on to Hancock

·3-min read

Prime Minister Boris Johnson “risks jeopardising vital public health measures” by retaining Matt Hancock as Health Secretary, the SNP has said.

The party has added to the growing pressure on Mr Hancock to resign after he was caught kissing a close aide in breach of coronavirus restrictions.

A video of Mr Hancock in an embrace with Gina Coladangelo was published on Friday night by the Sun newspaper, sparking further calls for his departure.

The SNP said there are “very serious questions” for Mr Hancock and the incident cannot “simply be brushed under the carpet”.

Its Westminster deputy leader Kirsten Oswald said: “Boris Johnson risks jeopardising the vital public health measures in place the longer he desperately clings on to his shamed Health Secretary – just like he did with Dominic Cummings.

Matt Hancock and Gina Coladangelo
Health Secretary Matt Hancock and adviser Gina Coladangelo, pictured in May, were filmed embracing (Yui Mok/PA)

“The Prime Minister must at long last do the right thing and put his responsibilities to public health first.

“There must be public confidence in those setting the rules and it cannot be the case that it is one rule for the Tory elite and another for the rest of us.

“Despite declaring the matter closed, the reality is that it is anything but closed.

“There are very serious questions for Matt Hancock to answer over the appointment of his aide to the lucrative position, as well as questions over whether or not Hancock broke the ministerial code.

“This cannot simply be brushed under the carpet.

“The Prime Minister must remove the Health Secretary from his position immediately, and there must be a full independent public inquiry into Tory sleaze and cronyism without any further delay.”

Prime Minister’s Questions
The SNP’s Kirsten Oswald said there are ‘very serious questions’ for Matt Hancock (House of Commons/PA)

Meanwhile, shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross must join calls for Mr Johnson to sack Mr Hancock.

The Labour MP said: “It beggars belief that more than 24 hours after the UK Health Secretary was caught breaking Covid restrictions that he himself introduced, the Scottish Tories have said nothing.

“Douglas Ross resigned over Dominic Cummings breach, yet now he’s the Scottish Tory leader he appears to have abandoned those principles.

“Matt Hancock broke the regulations and Boris Johnson should sack him.

“If the Scottish Tory leader had any backbone, he’d tell Boris Johnson that Hancock has to go.”

Ian Murray
The Shadow Scottish Secretary called for Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross to demand Matt Hancock is sacked (Jane Barlow/PA)

In a statement on Thursday, Mr Hancock said: “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.”

A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Johnson had accepted Mr Hancock’s apology and “considers the matter closed”.

A snap poll by Savanta ComRes, released hours after photographs of the pair kissing in Mr Hancock’s ministerial office surfaced, found 58% of UK adults feel he should resign, compared to 25% who say he should not.

The Covid-19 Bereaved Families For Justice group, which represents those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic, also called for Mr Hancock to go.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the group said it has broken its “position of neutrality on ministerial conduct” to urge Mr Johnson to relieve Mr Hancock of his job.

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