Politics

Questions remain about Matt Hancock’s affair amid calls for overhaul of Whitehall oversight rules – follow live


Boris Johnson suggests he sacked Matt Hancock

Boris Johnson is still facing questions over Matt Hancock’s conduct as health secretary following the former minister’s decision to step down last week over an office affair.

Days after Mr Hancock’s resignation, it remains unclear whether the appointment of his aide Gina Coladangelo was above board, how CCTV footage of the affair was leaked, and whether the former minister had broken email rules in his role.

There are also questions over why Mr Johnson declined to sack his health secretary on Friday after a day of confusion over what role the prime minister played in the resignation.

Mr Johnson appeared to suggest that he had convinced Mr Hancock to step down on Monday but Downing Street later admitted that he had merely accepted the resignation and had not convinced the former minister to leave his role.

Meanwhile, Labour has called for reform of the system for appointing non-executive directors (NEDs) to government departments, with the party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner warning that the current rules are “unfit for purpose” and need “a radical overhaul”.

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Our reporter, Peter Stubley, has more details below on the hostile atmosphere in Batley and Spen seen earlier this week:

Conrad Duncan29 June 2021 09:35

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Labour MP concerned by ‘very troubling’ reports of activists attacked in Batley and Spen

Labour MP Yvette Cooper has said that it is “very troubling” to hear about party activists being attacked in Batley and Spen ahead of the constituency’s by-election this week.

Ms Cooper told BBC Radio 4’s Today show that it was “particularly distressing” to see such behaviour in the constituency where MP Jo Cox was murdered in 2016.

“This is very troubling, there seems to be a temperature in this campaign that we have not seen in previous by-elections, certainly in West Yorkshire more widely,” she said.

“Obviously it’s particularly distressing for it to happen in a constituency where we lost Jo Cox five years ago to a far-right extremist and where also Kim Leadbeater, Jo’s sister, is brave and strong in standing to be the MP and I think for this to happen there obviously makes it much harder.

“I don’t think that this represents the people of Batley and Spen and we have had lots of warm conversations on the doorstep as well.”

Conrad Duncan29 June 2021 09:31

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Hancock’s actions may not lead to more Covid rule breaking, scientific adviser says

A government scientific adviser has suggested that former health secretary Matt Hancock’s decision to break Covid rules is not likely on its own to make people disobey the restrictions.

When asked if Mr Hancock’s actions would lead to more people ignoring regulations, Professor Robert West told BBC Radio 4’s Today show: “I think that, in and of itself, that is already being priced in because people don’t really trust politicians.

“The risk is if that seeds a wider norm around other people. So I think it’s really up to everyone else, who people do trust – public health officials, the NHS, other public figures – not to go down that route and not to get drawn into that kind of double-speak, as it were.”

Conrad Duncan29 June 2021 09:19

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Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has urged the new health secretary Sajid Javid to step down from his role as an advisor to JP Morgan to “avoid any perception of a conflict of interest” as he becomes the minister in charge of the NHS:

Conrad Duncan29 June 2021 09:12

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There are a number of written ministerial statements set to be made in the House of Commons today, including:

  • Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez answering an urgent question on the government’s use of emergency Covid contracts.
  • A transport minister responding to an urgent question on plans for international travel this summer.
  • Immigration minister Kevin Foster answering an urgent question on the implementation of the post-Brexit EU Settlement Scheme

Conrad Duncan29 June 2021 08:59

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SNP Westminster leader suggests Johnson is out of touch with public on Hancock affair

The SNP’s Westminster leader has suggested that Boris Johnson is out of touch with the British public after the prime minister chose not to sack Matt Hancock over his office affair last week.

Ian Blackford told Sky News that the incident with the former health secretary bore similarities to Dominic Cummings’ breaking of lockdown restrictions during the first wave of the pandemic.

The SNP MP suggested that he was shocked at how the prime minister refused to force the minister out of office despite the “public anger” at his behaviour.

“I think really a lot of this is about the judgement of the prime minister, not realising the scale of the anger that is there but also suggesting that Matt Hancock could come back into government at some point,” Mr Blackford said.

“This is a prime minister who really doesn’t seem to understand how the public feel about these matters.”

You can find his comments in full below:

Conrad Duncan29 June 2021 08:49

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Government appointments system needs to change, former civil service head says

The way that non-executive directors are appointed to government departments needs to change following Matt Hancock’s resignation as health secretary, the former head of the civil service has said.

Lord Bob Kerslake told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that ministers should be able to hire NEDs but the process needed to be more transparent and regulated.

“The problem really with the current model is about really the appointment process, how it is overseen and indeed clarity about what that role is supposed to be and I’m afraid changes are going to be needed in light of this sorry saga,” Lord Kerslake said.

He added: “I think the secretary of state should appoint, as they do for permanent secretaries because actually this is their board, they chair it, and they need to have people on there that they think will help them do their role.

“But the process by which that happens needs to be properly open, fair and transparent, not just the minister waking up one morning and saying ‘I would like to have X on my board’.”

Conrad Duncan29 June 2021 08:24

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Labour calls for changes to oversight appointments after Hancock affair

Labour has called for changes to the system for picking non-executive directors (NEDs) for government departments amid concerns about how Gina Coladangelo, the aide caught in an office affair with Matt Hancock, was given her role.

NEDs are supposed to provide independent scrutiny for departments but some ministers have been accused of using the positions to award Tory donors, peers and MPs.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner warned that the system was currently “unfit for purpose” and needed to be overhauled.

“Non-executive directors of Whitehall departments are supposed to hold ministers to account,” Ms Rayner said.

“The behaviour of the Conservatives has proved beyond all doubt that the rules and regulations that are supposed to prevent conflicts of interest and close the revolving door between Whitehall and business are unfit for purpose and need a radical overhaul.”

She added on Tuesday morning that problems with the system did not begin and end with Ms Coladangelo’s appointment.

Conrad Duncan29 June 2021 08:15

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Questions remain over Hancock’s conduct as health secretary

Serious questions remain unanswered over Matt Hancock’s conduct as health secretary after the former minister stepped down over an office affair last week.

Following a turbulent few days, it is still unclear how CCTV footage of the affair leaked and whether the appointment of Mr Hancock’s aide Gina Coladangelo was conducted correctly.

Our reporter, Jon Stone, has more details below:

Conrad Duncan29 June 2021 08:01

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Hello and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of UK politics today.

Conrad Duncan29 June 2021 07:52

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