Matt Hancock has resigned as UK health secretary in a letter to Boris Johnson where he says the Government “owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down”.
It comes after images and video showed Hancock in an embrace with aide Gina Coladangelo last month, and the health secretary was facing increasing pressure to quit over the breaking of social-distancing rules.
Former chancellor and home secretary Sajid Javid will replace Hancock as health secretary, Downing Street announced on Saturday night.
In his letter of resignation, Hancock said: “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. I also need (to) be with my children at this time.”
He paid tribute to NHS staff and Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) officials and admitted that “we didn’t get every decision right”.
But he said: “I know people understand how hard it is to deal with the unknown, making the difficult trade-off between freedom, prosperity and health that we have faced.”
In a video posted on Twitter, Hancock said: “I understand the enormous sacrifices that everybody in this country has made, you have made. And those of us who make these rules have got to stick by them and that’s why I’ve got to resign.”
Hancock had previously apologised for breaching social distancing rules after photographs were published appearing to show him in an embrace with his aide.
The Sun published pictures of the married Cabinet minister appearing to kiss Coladangelo, who the newspaper said was hired by Hancock last year.
The images, which appear to be captured from CCTV footage, were taken from the headquarters of the DHSC, the newspaper added.
It said Hancock hired Coladangelo as an unpaid adviser on a six-month contract in March last year, before appointing her as a non-executive director at the department.
Johnson said on Saturday he was “sorry” to receive Hancock’s resignation as health secretary.
He said Hancock “should leave office very proud of what you have achieved – not just in tackling the pandemic, but even before Covid-19 struck us”.
Johnson added: “I am grateful for your support and believe that your contribution to public service is far from over.”
The Prime Minister had refused to sack Hancock, with his spokesman saying the PM considered the matter closed after receiving the West Suffolk MP’s apology on Friday.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford MP said Hancock’s “belated” resignation is a “massive failure of leadership on Boris Johnson’s part”.
He said: “Matt Hancock should have been sacked – not given the opportunity and time to resign over the weekend.
“This entire episode has once again shone a light on the sleaze and cronyism at the heart of this Tory government – and it is important to say that this resignation must not be seen as the end of the matter.
“Matt Hancock’s resignation must at long last be followed by a full independent public inquiry into Tory cronyism – with answers needed over the Tory government’s handling of lucrative Covid contracts handed out to party donors and contacts, and the hiring of friends and those close to them to influential positions among the long list of Tory scandals.
“The Westminster system is rotten to the core and broken beyond repair. Instead of putting up with it, Scotland can shake off Westminster and build a fairer and more democratic future as an independent country.”
STV News is now on WhatsApp
Get all the latest news from around the countryFollow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp
Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country