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UK government to hit by Hancock scandal, to probe leak of footage

UK government to hit by Hancock scandal, to probe leak of footage

June 29, 2021: -Britain’s government will investigate the way images of former health minister Matt Hancock kissing an aide found their way into the media and forced his resignation in the latest scandal to hit Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government.

On Friday, after first rejecting calls for Hancock to be fired or to resign after pictures were published of him embracing a woman he had appointed to a taxpayer-funded role, Johnson accepted the minister’s decision to step down.

The departure put renewed focus on the government over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Led by Hancock, it stumbled in over-testing and protective equipment. As a result, Britain has one of the highest official coronavirus death tolls in the world.

On Sunday, a report by the BBC that sensitive defense ministry documents had been found by a public member at a bus stop this week did little to dispel a sense of chaos at the heart of government. It was investigating the incident, the minister said.

Asked whether the health ministry was investigating how the images of Hancock took in his government office and got leaked, Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis told Sky News, “It is a matter I know the department of health will look into to understand how that recording got out of the system exactly.”

He later told Times Radio there were two issues for the government to look into whether the camera in office was there “appropriately” and, if it was there for security reasons, “how that video got out to the public domain.”

On Friday, the Sun newspaper published photos of Hancock kissing the aide last month when coronavirus guidelines banned people from hugging others who were not members of their household. It has also posted video footage.

After the images got published, many of Hancock’s fellow Conservative lawmakers had privately known for him to go, saying his position was untenable after he admitted to breaking the restrictions he had set.

Johnson, who has faced criticism of various scandals, including funding the refurbishment of his apartment and a trip that broke restrictions by his then senior adviser Dominic Cummings, first stood by Hancock.

On Saturday, they then accepted the minister’s resignation and suggested Hancock might return to a higher public role.

“If anybody thinks that the resignation of Matt Hancock is the end of the issue, I think they’re wrong,” Labour leader Keir Starmer told reporters.

“The prime minister should have sacked him. But, yet again, Boris Johnson was too slow, too weak, and didn’t show the needed leadership. When the many people who made massive sacrifices during this pandemic see this, what they see is one rule for them and another rule for those close to the government.”

The Sunday Times, citing documents, which reports that Hancock faced an investigation into allegations he had used his email to conduct government business, breaching guidelines.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said, “All DHSC ministers understand the rules in personal email usage and only conduct government business through their departmental email addresses.”

On Saturday, New health minister Sajid Javid, appointed by Johnson, told reporters his top priority was to see an end to the pandemic as soon as possible, a statement later toned down in an issue by his ministry.

“We are still in a pandemic, and I want to see that come to an end as soon as possible, and that will be my most priority to see that we can return to normal as soon as possible immediately,” said Javid, a former finance minister.

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