Hancock 'turns down' pay-off as UK security services investigate kissing video leak

Boris Johnson faces questions over his judgment for standing by former health secretary

Former UK health secretary Matt Hancock is set to turn down his severance pay after resigning for breaking social distancing rules by kissing his aide.

Mr Hancock on Saturday admitted his behaviour had undermined the government’s power to enforce Covid restrictions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson accepted his decision to stand down and told him he “should leave office very proud of what you have achieved”.

The former health secretary had been in line for a £16,000 ($22,230) pay-out but Mr Hancock has said he will not take the payment, The Telegraph reported.

However, the main opposition Labour party questioned why such an award should be on offer in the first place and demanded that Mr Hancock be banned from receiving it.

Questions are being asked over Mr Johnson's judgment in failing to sack Mr Hancock after images were first published in The Sun showing him kissing and hugging his aide Gina Coladangelo in his office.

Since his resignation, it has also emerged Mr Hancock used a private email address while he conducted government business, while Labour continues to call for an investigation into Ms Coladangelo's appointment as a non-executive director in the Department for Health.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland defended Mr Johnson's decision to stand by Mr Hancock despite the revelations.

"Dancing on the head of a pin doesn't get us anywhere," he told BBC's Radio 4 Today programme on Monday.

"There is absolutely a clear understanding within government that the rules are for all of us. We live under an equality of the rules, it applies to all of us. Matt has paid the price - he made a terrible error ... but he clearly took the right decision."

Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner demanded a "full-scale investigation" into whether private emails had been used to discuss government contracts and if their use might have potentially broken the law.

"We need to know how wide this goes and how much government business is being conducted in secret", she said.

New Health Secretary Sajid Javid was expected to announce on Monday that social distancing restrictions would remain in place until July 19.

"I want to see the restrictions lifted and life going back to normal as quickly as possible. That is my absolute priority. I want to see those restrictions lifted as soon as we can," he said before addressing MPs.

"It's going to be irreversible, there's no going back. That's why we want to be careful during that process."

Meanwhile, authorities will investigate how the CCTV images were leaked to the media.

Former intelligence officer Philip Ingrim said the leak was highly unusual and suggested building security officials would be the first to face questions.

"There is some debate over whether it was CCTV or a surveillance device," he told Sky News.

Mr Buckland said he asked for his office to be swept for "unauthorised devices" after the leak.

"I've never seen any camera facilities. I know there is CCTV in the building for obvious security reasons, but I am sure that many of my colleagues will be asking the same question and making sure that the offices are swept just in case there are unauthorised devices in there that could be a national security breach," he said.

After the images were published, many of Mr Hancock's fellow Conservative politicians privately called for him to go, saying his position was untenable after he admitted to breaking the coronavirus restrictions he had set.

Mr Johnson, who has dealt with various scandals including funding for the refurbishment of his apartment and a trip last year by his then senior adviser Dominic Cummings, who broke coronavirus restrictions, initially stood by Mr Hancock.

He then accepted the former minister's resignation on Saturday and suggested Mr Hancock may return to a higher public role.

Mr Javid said his top priority was the pandemic.

"We are still in a pandemic and I want to see that come to an end as soon as possible," said Mr Javid, a former chancellor of the exchequer.

"And that will be my most immediate priority, to see that we can return to normal as soon and as quickly as possible."

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