Covid UK: Data Watchdog initiates investigation at Ministry of Health into use of private email

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The data watchdog has opened a Department of Health and Social Affairs investigation into the use of private email addresses by cabinet ministers, including disgraced ex-Health Secretary Matt Hancock, during the coronavirus crisis.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham will review the use of all private correspondence channels used by Ministers, including WhatsApp messaging, after Labor raised concerns about the use of email by Mr Hancock and Health Secretary Lord Bethell.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has the power to seize evidence and may even recommend prosecution if it finds that information has been deliberately destroyed, altered, or withheld.

According to leaked minutes of an official meeting at the department, Mr Hancock is accused of routinely using a personal account during the pandemic. The minutes state that Mr. Hancock only dealt with his home office “through a Gmail account” and did not have an inbox in any department.

The former health minister left the government and dumped his 15-year-old wife after CCTV images of him and his lover, millionaire adviser Gina Coladangelo, breached coronavirus restrictions, were leaked to Sun newspaper. His use of email is part of the request.

Lord Bethell, a former nightclub manager who sponsored Mr Hancock’s failed bid to run Tory and oversaw the award of Covid contracts, is facing growing pressure to resign after a series of emails sent to his private E -Mail account were copied.

He is also being investigated by the Lords Commissioner for Standards on allegations that the peer sponsored a parliamentary pass for Miss Coladangelo, wife of Oliver Bona’s founder, Oliver Tress.

In a blog posted on the ICO website, Ms. Denham said that using private communication channels in and of itself is not a violation of freedom of information or data protection regulations. However, she said she was concerned that they could be used to thwart the freedom of information process.

Matt Hancock left government, ditching his 15-year-old wife after CCTV images of him breaching coronavirus restrictions with his lover, millionaire advisor Gina Coladangelo, leaked to Sun newspaper. His use of email is part of the request

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham

Minister of Health Lord Bethell

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham will review the use of all private channels of correspondence by Cabinet Ministers, including WhatsApp messaging, after Labor raised concerns about the use of private email by Mr Hancock and Health Secretary Lord Bethell

Mr Hancock's rule-breaking affair with millionaire advisor Gina Coladangelo in his former ministerial office

The illegal affair of Mr. Hancock with the millionaire advisor Gina Coladangelo in his ministerial office at the time

“My concern is that information in personal email accounts or messaging services is forgotten, overlooked, automatically deleted, or otherwise unavailable when a freedom of information request is made later,” she said.

“As a result, my office has initiated a formal investigation into the use of private correspondence channels within the Department of Health and Social Affairs and delivered informational communications through the Department and others to obtain evidence relevant to my investigation.”

She added that the ICO has the ability to prosecute individuals if information has been “intentionally destroyed, altered, or withheld” after being requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

“I will follow the evidence where it leads in this investigation and use all my power to ensure a full understanding of the incidents.”

Downing Street previously confirmed that Lord Bethell used a private email address but suggested that it be allowed within the rules while the minister insisted he did nothing wrong.

A health ministry spokesman said, “The DHSC has partnered with the information commissioner’s office and the ministry will work together on all investigations. All ministers are familiar with the guidelines on personal e-mail use and government business is conducted in accordance with these guidelines.

Labor vice chair Angela Rayner said she welcomed the investigation and wrote on Twitter: “This is very serious and I welcome this announcement after writing to the Information Commissioner asking for an investigation.

“The government must not be allowed to cover up shady deals with taxpayers’ money that is distributed to friends of ministers without scrutiny. The government must cooperate fully and hand over all correspondence, emails and documents.

“Now the important thing is to find out how far this shady practice extends across the government and to ensure that the public investigation into Covid has access to all evidence.”

It is just one of a series of inquiries that Mr Hancock may still face despite his dramatic resignation from the Cabinet. He has been accused of misleading the public for insisting on failing to help a former pub owner win a lucrative coronavirus deal.

Mr Hancock had previously claimed that he was using the £ 30 million deal for Alex Bourne, who used to run the Cock Inn near his old constituency in Thurlow, West Suffolk, to supply test tubes for Covid testing, ” had nothing to do “.

Mr Hancock speaks during a press conference on Downing Street on May 27, 2021

Mr. Hancock speaks during a press conference on Downing Street on May 27, 2021

Labor vice-chair Angela Rayner said she welcomed the investigation and wrote on Twitter:

Labor vice-chair Angela Rayner said she welcomed the investigation and wrote on Twitter: “This is very serious and I welcome this announcement after writing to the Information Commissioner asking for an investigation.”

It follows allegations that the former Health Secretary has routinely used a Gmail account since March last year, meaning that there is little record of his crucial decisions about PPE contracts, Covid tests for nursing home residents, or the £ 37 billion test and tracking system there.

Mr Hancock is currently under investigation by Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone for his stake in a family business that has won NHS contracts.

He has already been determined to have committed a “minor” ministerial code violation by failing to show an interest when the shredding company Topwood Ltd was first given the right to apply for healthcare deals.

Meanwhile, a House of Lords spokesman said the standards commissioner was investigating a complaint regarding Lord Bethell’s sponsorship of a passport for Miss Coladangelo.

A longtime friend of Mr. Hancock, Miss Coladangelo, was initially admitted to the DHSC as an unpaid advisor before becoming a non-executive director who received £ 15,000 a year for three days of work.

Members of the House of Lords may sponsor ID cards for secretaries and research assistants if they perform these duties “honestly and personally” for the sponsoring member. The sponsor must sign a statement to this effect, and it would be against the rules if the person did not work for the peer.

Pass holders have free access to the Palace of Westminster, where they can meet with ministers and MPs and use the property’s facilities such as bars and restaurants.

Miss Coladangelo is no longer listed as an employee of Lord Bethell on his parliamentary website. An online archive, however, showed that in May last year she was listed as “Ms. Gina Tress”, a marketing and communications director for Oliver Bonas, as an employee.

The opposition had called for an investigation and said that Lord Bethell was Mr. Hancock’s “buddy” and “gave her a passport,” suggesting that it would be “one rule for Conservatives and their friends and another for everyone else” give.



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