scorecardresearch
Follow Us:
Sunday, July 25, 2021

Explained: The circumstances that led to resignation of UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock served as the UK Health Secretary for three years and was previously the Minister of State for Digital and Culture from July 2016 to January 2018.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: June 29, 2021 7:12:20 am
Matt HancockBefore entering politics, Matt Hancock worked as an economist in the Bank of England and was also the Chief of Staff to the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock resigned from his position last week after admitting that he had violated social distancing protocols that are in effect due to Covid-19. This came after photos published by The Sun showed him in an embrace with his colleague Gina Coladangelo.

But what are the circumstances that led to Hancock’s resignation?

Who is Matt Hancock?

Hancock served as the UK Health Secretary for three years and was previously the Minister of State for Digital and Culture from July 2016 to January 2018.

In May 2020, he was elected Conservative MP for West Suffolk and entered government in 2012. Since then, he has served in a number of ministerial roles.

Before entering politics, he worked as an economist in the Bank of England and was also the Chief of Staff to the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inbox

What was the incident?

On June 25, UK tabloid The Sun published photographs—that it claims were taken on May 6 from a CCTV camera—of Hancock kissing Coladangelo at his office. “Matt Hancock has been caught having a secret affair with his top aide,” ran a caption to one of the photographs published by The Sun.

According to the tabloid, whistleblowers have revealed that the former health secretary had been spotted cheating on his wife of 15 years by having an affair with Coladangelo, who is also married.

The BBC reported that Hancock quit on Saturday after he was caught on camera kissing Coladangelo in his office. According to the report, Hancock, who is a father of three, has left his wife of 15 years, Martha, and his relationship with Coladangelo is being described as “serious”.

A report by The Guardian stated that the government will not probe who leaked the photographs, “even though they believe they know who did it”. In fact, Sajid Javid, the former chancellor who will now be replacing Hancock, has also said that cabinet ministers should not have security cameras in their offices.

Which rules did Hancock violate specifically?

As of now, across the UK individuals are required to maintain a distance of least two metres from people they are not meeting. However, people can choose to have contact with friends and family.

For employers, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said that while people should maintain a distance of two metres. But “if it is not viable, keeping 1m apart with risk mitigation is accepted”.

Apart from this, the UK government has said that people in workspaces should “maintain social distancing guidelines wherever possible”. The guidelines state, “These are 2 metres or 1 metre+ with risk mitigation where 2 metres is not viable. This includes when they arrive at and depart from work, while they are in work, and when they travel between sites.”

It also emphasises that social distancing applies to all parts of business which includes entrances and exits, break rooms and canteens and other such settings.

Significantly, at the time this purported photograph was taken, England was in Stage 2 of Covid-19 restrictions, which means that more than two people could not gather indoors. For workspaces, more than two people could gather indoors but only if it was considered necessary.

About this, BBC Reality Check quoted Adam Wagner, a barrister from Doughty Street Chambers as saying, “Based on what we know, this seems to me to have been an illegal gathering.”

What were the circumstances surrounding Hancock’s resignation?

After the incident came to light, Conservative MPs, ministers and a group called Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice demanded that Hancock be sacked by the government. This, along with public anger, built pressure on Hancock to resign.

In a letter to the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson dated June 26, Hancock wrote, “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.”

📣 JOIN NOW 📣: The Express Explained Telegram Channel

What next?

Johnson said in a letter that he was “sorry to receive” Hancock’s resignation. He also stated that the former health secretary should be “immensely proud” of his service. “I am grateful for your support and believe that your contribution to public service is far from over,” Johnson further wrote.

The UK Prime Minister has now appointed former chancellor Sajid Javid as the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest Explained News, download Indian Express App.

  • The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.
0 Comment(s) *
* The moderation of comments is automated and not cleared manually by indianexpress.com.
Advertisement

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement