- UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock had an affair with an aide he hired on a £15,000 contract, The Sun reported.
- Hancock was pictured embracing Gina Coladangelo, a close friend from university who he hired.
- A Labour spokesperson said when “jobs are being offered to close friends who are in a personal relationship with a minister, then that needs to be looked into.”
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The UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has apologized after he was photographed appearing to kiss a close personal friend who he hired as an advisor, raising questions about a potential conflict of interest after he appointed her to a £15,000-a-year role at the health department.
The Sun on Friday published photos that appeared to capture Hancock locked in an embrace with Gina Coladangelo in his office at the Department for Health.
Hancock, who is married, secretly hired former lobbyist Coladangelo as an adviser last year, The Sunday Times previously reported.
The pair met at Oxford University and remained close friends before he appointed her as an adviser in March and later gave her a £15,000-a-year role as a non-executive director at the Department of Health.
The photographs were taken less than two weeks before Hancock urged people to minimise indoor contact with others, and he on Friday apologised for breaching social distancing guidelines.
“I accept I breached social distancing guidance in these circumstances,” he said in a statement cited by ITV News.
“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.”
Coladangelo’s LinkedIn profile states that she has served in as a non-executive director at the health department since September 2020, but there was no public record of her appointment, the Sunday Times reported.
The UK’s ministerial code does not prevent ministers from engaging in sexual relationships with aides, said Catherine Haddon, a senior fellow at the Institute for Government.
-Politics For All (@PoliticsForAlI) June 25, 2021
But the opposition Labour party said the report raised concerns over a potential conflict of interest.
A Labour spokesperson said: “Ministers, like everyone, are entitled to private life. However, when taxpayers’ money is involved or jobs are being offered to close friends who are in a personal relationship with a minister, then that needs to be looked into
“The Government needs to be open and transparent about whether there are any conflicts of interests or rules that have been broken.”
The photographs were stills taken from closed-circuit television cameras at the health department on May 6.
Less than two weeks later, Hancock urged British people to minimise indoor contact with others to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
A spokesperson for Boris Johnson on Friday said: “The prime minister has accepted the health secretary’s apology and considers the matter closed.”