Hancock’s ‘chum’ Lord Bethell faces standards inquiry over aide’s access to Parliament: Tory peer sponsored Gina Coladangelo’s pass despite ‘her never working for him’
- Lord Bethell faces an inquiry over Gina Coladangelo’s access to Parliament
- Hancock ally ‘sponsored her access to Parliament from April 2020 until October’
- Labour made complaint to standards watchdog amid claims of cronyism
- Health secretary quit after images showed him kissing aide in his office
Disgraced Matt Hancock’s ally Lord Bethell has been referred to the standards watchdog last night for allegedly improperly sponsoring a parliamentary pass for the former Health Secretary’s millionaire lover.
Parliamentary records show that Health Minister Lord Bethell, a friend of Mr Hancock’s, sponsored lobbyist Gina Coladangelo’s access to the Palace of Westminster from April 2020 until at least October.
A complaint has been made to the Lords commissioner for standards by Labour, whose party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds accused the Government of cronyism and said the Tories have ‘serious questions’ to answer.
Cheating Mr Hancock, 42, resigned as Health Secretary and left his wife of 15 years after images published this week showed him kissing Miss Coladangelo, 43, in his ministerial office in breach of coronavirus restrictions.
Boris Johnson had faced a tidal wave of criticism for failing to sack Mr Hancock, who can be seen in the photos and video flouting the very social distancing measures he imposed on millions during the pandemic.
The complaint is likely to reignite questions of why Mr Hancock sponsored a parliamentary pass for Miss Coladangelo from June 2019 until February last year.
Parliamentary records show that Health Minister Lord Bethell sponsored lobbyist Gina Coladangelo’s access to the Palace of Westminster from April 2020 until at least October
Matt Hancock, 42, resigned as Health Secretary and left his wife of 15 years after images published this week showed him kissing Miss Coladangelo, 43, in his ministerial office in breach of coronavirus restrictions
Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock kissing his millionaire aide in May this year
In the summer of 2019, Miss Coladangelo was reported to be serving as an aide on Mr Hancock’s failed Tory leadership campaign, but it is unclear why she continued to have access to Parliament thereafter.
House of Lords rules state that peers can sponsor three passes for those who ‘genuinely and personally provide parliamentary secretarial or research assistance’ to them – and must sign a declaration to this effect.
Official guidance states that a breach of the rules regarding passes ‘constitutes a breach of the code of conduct, and may lead to a complaint to the House of Lords commissioner for standards which, if upheld, can lead to sanction by the House’. Sanction can range from a public reprimand to a lengthy suspension.
Holders of parliamentary passes have free access to the Palace of Westminster, to MPs and ministers, and to bars, restaurants and other taxpayer-funded facilities. They may also bring guests to the parliamentary estate.
When she held her pass, Miss Coladangelo was PR chief of her husband’s retailer and a shareholder at lobbying firm Luther Pendragon.
But it is understood that Miss Coladangelo has never worked for Lord Bethell, who was appointed as minister with responsibility for NHS Test and Trace.
Last November the Department of Health did not dispute the claim or the suggestion that Lord Bethell sponsored the wife of Oliver Bonas founder Oliver Tress in order to shield Mr Hancock from scrutiny or awkward questions.
Gina Coladangelo (pictured with the Health Secretary in September 2019), initially taken on by Mr Hancock as an unpaid adviser on a six-month contract in early 2020, is also leaving her position on the board of the Department of Health
Matt Hancock wrote a letter of resignation (pictured above) to Boris Johnson where he said the Government ‘owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down
It has come to light that the Health Secretary told his wife, Martha (pictured for the first time since his resignation announcement), that he would be leaving her on Thursday night – immediately after discovering that his affair with Gina Coladangelo was about to be laid bare
Lord Bethell, who chaired and donated £5,000 to Mr Hancock’s leadership campaign, has been referred to the Lords commissioner for standards by Labour.
Miss Dodds said: ‘The Conservatives have serious questions to answer about how Gina Coladangelo gained the right to enter Parliament unchecked.
‘We need to know why was she sponsored by one of Matt Hancock’s chums in the Lords and what work she did for him.
‘Access to Parliament is a privilege for people who genuinely need to work there. There cannot be one rule for the Conservatives and their friends and another for everyone else.’
MailOnline has approached Lord Bethell and Mr Hancock for comment.
It comes as Mr Hancock faces an investigation over his use of a personal email account to conduct government business, according to reports.
By not using an official address during the pandemic, the newly resigned Health Secretary would have been in breach of government guidelines.
Mr Hancock has routinely used a private email account to conduct government business since March last year, according to documents seen by The Sunday Times.
As a result, his communications and information has been concealed from his own officials and potentially the public, and means that the government does not hold records of much of the former health minister’s decision making.
This reportedly includes negotiating PPE contracts worth millions, establishing the £37billion test and trace programme, and overseeing the government’s care homes strategy – all of which he faced criticism for during his time in office.
The Times reports the existence of the secret account was disclosed in minutes of a December meeting between senior officials at the Department of Health.
Matt Hancock (pictured) is facing an investigation over his use of a personal email account to conduct government business, according to reports
Matt Hancock, 42, announced his resignation on Saturday following the emergence of video footage showing him kissing aide Gina Coladangelo in his ministerial office in a breach of coronavirus restrictions
Cabinet Office guidelines stipulate that ministers should use official email accounts, in the interest of transparency, and in order to ensure there is evidence of important decisions and of proper internal scrutiny from officials and staff.
Mr Hancock has been accused of conflicts of interest over the hiring of Coladangelo as his media adviser and director of his department, earning £15,000 a year.
According to the leaked documents, its possible that he hid details of their official dealings, and his conduct in office as a whole.
According to the newspaper, the minutes show that David Williams – the department’s second permanent secretary – warned of Hancock’s emails, saying that he ‘only’ deals with his private office ‘via Gmail account’.
He also stated that ‘the SOS [secretary of state] does not have a DHSC inbox’, and that officials could not freely access key evidence or documents because the ‘threshold for requesting this personal account would need to be substantial.’
Mr Williams also said that Hancock’s ally and a junior health minister Lord Bethell used the same practice.
The subject of the minutes was a meeting about a legal challenge made by the Good Law Project over Mr Hancock’s decision to award a contract worth as much as £75million for ‘malfunctioning’ tests to a firm connected to government adviser Sir John Bell.
Mr Williams admits in the minutes that he ‘doesn’t believe there was inappropriate acts on behalf of ministers but can clearly see the optics suggest otherwise,’ The Sunday Times reports.
Since the meeting, Mr Hancock was given an official email account, although according to two sources cited by the newspaper, he still preferred to use Gmail – considered a form of communication that is more difficult to trace.
Labour have demanded an investigation by the Information Commissioners Office into whether Mr Hancock breached the rules.
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner said: ‘He needs to explain to the British people why he thought it was acceptable to have a secret and private email inbox for contracts for people that he had a direct relationship with.’
The disgraced health secretary is already facing potential investigations into whether he broke laws and guidance that he helped create, and the ministerial code, in relation to his clinch with Miss Coladangelo.
A DHSC spokesman told The Sunday Times: ‘All DHSC ministers understand the rules around personal email usage and only conduct government business through their departmental email addresses.’
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